Christmas 0118 – “Anticipation Turned to Joy.” Luke 2:25-33

Christmas 0118 – “Anticipation Turned to Joy.” Luke 2:25-33

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St. Luke, the 2nd Chapter:

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles,
and the glory of thy people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Has the glow of Christmas begun to dim for you?  How many people have taken down their decorations?  How many people are glad the season is over?

Do not let the joy and peace of the Christ Child wane in your hearts.  Find encouragement to continue in His joy and peace as we consider Simeon’s words who also rejoices in seeing the Lord’s promise fulfilled before his eyes.

We heard countless times before this day that there is no other gift that has been given which surpasses the gift we have been given in the Christ Child.  The prophets foretold the greatness of this gift.  Such foretelling was in anticipation of the time when God would fulfill what he had promised.

Abraham longed for this day and saw it from afar off.  Isaiah foretold this day and called upon God’s people to wait in eager anticipation of the child to born of a virgin.  Micah foretold the place of the Christ Child’s birth, the little town of Bethlehem.  Simeon was told he would not receive his eternal reward until he had seen the very Christ Child.  All waited in anticipation for the joy of salvation to be upon them in the Child to be born.  Such is our joy as well.

Luke begins his account of the transformation of anticipation to joy with the exclamation “Behold.”  What follows this word is of great importance.  We would equate this with an index finger extended and the exclamation “Look at that!”  With this word, Luke is grabbing the attention of the reader and telling them to look with understanding at what Simeon experiences from the hand of the Triune God.

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

This is all we are told about Simeon.  We are given neither his family heritage, nor his age, nor how long he lived after witnessing this great event.  We are told only that Simeon was a devout and faithful Israelite, who had been given a promise by God.  He was what Jesus would later call a true Israelite.  Simeon trusted in the true God, and longed to see what had been promised him, the Messiah, the Consolation of Israel.

Let us understand the name Consolation of Israel.  The prophet Isaiah writes in the 40th Chapter of his prophetic book:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.”

These words of Isaiah are a beautiful hymn of relief and hope that hurting souls need to hear.  Isaiah’s message was written to the Children of Israel during the Babylonian captivity.  They had been taken from their homes and deported to a foreign land as divine judgment for their apostasy.

God used this time of captivity in a foreign land as a time of discipline.  They were bound in the shackles of captivity and taught how serious their offense was in the sight of God.  To abandon the word of the living God is abandon hope, life, and favor.

God abandoned the Israelites to their punishment until they should turn from their sinful ways and return to the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Now God was announcing and end to punishment and a promise of restoration and peace in sins forgiven.

These words have great meaning for us as well.  For this passage from Isaiah is pointing to the salvation which God gives only through the Christ Child.  Jesus is the embodiment of comfort and consolation in this world of sin, death, and destruction.

Our triune God would have all people to know and believe in the consolation he offers in the life of this child upon which Simeon will look.  Who among us sinners today would not want such consolation and comfort?  Who among us sinners today would not seek such consolation and comfort?

People indeed do search for such comfort and consolation.  Many however do not know where to find such consolation and comfort.  Many people today suffer under the weight of guilty consciences, self doubt, personal inadequacy, fearful insecurity, unexpected failure.  You name the affliction and someone has felt its pain and suffering.  You name the affliction and someone will have tried all manner of cures to rid themselves of the affliction.

Even Satan will get into the act and hold before our eyes the possibility of finding comfort in the things of this world.  Satan will tempt us with sexual promiscuity, alcohol, the lure of great financial wealth in gambling.  Such things are fleeting comforts, false tenderness, and empty consolation.  Such things are empty shells that hold no real help.  When they are grasped in the hand they quickly crumble and are revealed to be what they really are: lies that perpetuate the inadequacy, multiply the guilt, increase the insecurity, and magnify the failure.

Yet Simeon teaches us where to look.  He looks upon the Consolation of Israel, the Christ Child.  Do we not sing in the Christmas carol:

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

In Bethlehem so long ago, God brought forth from the body of the Virgin Mary, the savior of the world, the consolation of Israel, Jesus Christ.  In obedience to the teaching of God, this child was taken to the temple after the time of Mary’s purification, and redeemed by his parents.

On that day, Simeon was led by the Spirit of God to go to the temple and there look upon the Savior.  Simeon saw in this child everything that God had promised with regard to the salvation of the world.  He takes the baby in his arms and pronounces a divine blessing, and prophetic word over this child.  Simeon says of this Jesus:

“For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles,
and the glory of thy people Israel.”

Imagine the joy in Simeon’s heart as he looks upon the fulfillment of the ages.  Imagine the peace that fills Simeon’s mind as he looks upon the mighty deliverer and savior.  Imagine the grateful thanksgiving that Simeon expresses as he holds the fulfillment of God’s promises in his hands.

Such certainties are for you and for me and for all people today.  The hands that were held by Mary and the body that was blessed by Simeon are destined for the sacrifice which would bring salvation and consolation to all who struggle under sin, death, disappointment, guilt and shame.

This Jesus would stretch out his hands to be pierced for the transgressions of all people.  This Jesus would put his feet on the path of eternal death to rescue all people from hell’s fire.  This Jesus would give over his body to the punishment that brings us peace and consolation in the atonement for sin.

Our savior now holds us in the grace that gives peace.  He holds in the water of holy Baptism that circumcises the sinful heart and removes that which brings guilt, shame, and judgment.  He feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of blessing that feeds the sin-starved soul with the heavenly food and drink that restores life.  He removes sorrow and shame and guilt and moves once empty hearts to rejoice as did Simeon.

May the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ turn your anticipation to joy so that you may sing with Simeon these words of thanksgiving:

“Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace
according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.