+ Purification of Mary and Presentation of our Lord – Feb 2nd 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
1 Samuel 1:21-28; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The stores have moved on and so have our homes. Lights. Trees. Decorations. Most of them are boxed up and ready for next year. Can you even remember what you got for Christmas? But just when you thought Christmas was over, Simeon bursts back on the stage with one more joyous song:
“Lord now your servant departs in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen our salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon’s song is a good reminder that in Christ’s Church, Christmas never really ends. Jesus is with his church – not in a touchy-feely, hallmark card kind of way. Jesus is with his church in his crucified, risen, and ascended presence, his very body and blood. This is why Divine Service isn’t about an emotionally meaningful worship experience (whatever that means) but about being gathered in Christ’s Church where the Lord of continues to be Servant of all.
That’s why Simeon sang that day in the temple: in his arms he held the Savior, weak and lowly infant though He was. Consolation and Redemption was here…at last!
That’s why today we’re celebrating the Festival of Mary’s Purification and the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. For we too, hold the Savior today: His forgiveness rests upon our ears. His Holy Supper upon our lips. And his praises spill forth from our mouths.
In case you haven’t been keeping track, it’s 40 days after Christmas. That’s what the Law of Moses prescribed in Leviticus. 40 days after the first born male child is born, the presentation to the Lord for they are holy. set apart. That’s what Hannah was doing in 1 Samuel. That’s what brought Mary and Joseph to the temple. Jesus fulfilling the Law, even at 40 days old.
40 is a biblical number for a time of testing and fulfillment – a time when the Lord keeps his promises no matter how much it looks like he’s forgotten.
40 days and nights of rain in the great Flood.
40 years wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus.
40 days of Jesus being tempted and rebuking Satan in the wilderness on our behalf.
40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension.
You could also say that 40 is a number of waiting in the Scriptures. Just like families wait 40 weeks for mothers to give birth to their children. And waiting always leads to consolation and redemption. That’s what Simeon and Anna were waiting for.
There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel…
Waiting…always comes before consolation. Noah and his family waited over a year to walk on the dry ground of a new creation. Israel waited over 40 years to finally cross the Jordan to the Promised Land.
Simeon knew a thing or two about waiting. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Imagine how many days he went to the temple: waiting, watching, thinking: “Is today the day?” until one day Mary, Joseph, and 40 day old Jesus walk into the temple, and the Holy Spirit says, “There He is, the Christ, YHWH’s promise in human flesh.” Simeon is the Old Testament in one man, watching for the fulfillment and consolation of Israel. That’s the pattern. Waiting, then consolation.
What do you find yourself waiting for? Personally we might wait for a lot of things: Healing or test results for a loved one, employment or financial stability, an answer to a specific prayer. As a congregation we also wait: for that seed of faith to sprout and grow in our neighbor who’s heard the Gospel; for our friends or family members to take us upon our invitation to church; for our Lord to fulfill his promises just as he did for Simeon.
In that respect, it is good to wait on the Lord. It’s even good to cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13). Look at how Simeon spent his time waiting – in the temple.
But it’s not always what we’re waiting for that’s the problem but how we’re waiting.
Truth is, we’re all horrible at waiting. We’re perpetually, insufferably impatient. We’ve a hard enough time waiting for a stop light to change let alone waiting on the Lord. Impatience is just another mask of our old sinful flesh, wicked fruit from a rotten, dead, sinful tree. We’re impatient because we don’t trust. It’s true on a human level in our relationships with one another: after all, waiting means being dependent on someone else. Waiting means trusting another person. And it’s especially true on a spiritual level: waiting on the Lord means that we’re entirely dependent upon him. Waiting on the Lord means trusting his word, not ours. Repent. For God doesn’t operate according to our Google calendars or our iPhone alerts. Repent and live like Simeon; wait on the Lord.
So, how does God answer us in our waiting? The same way he did with Simeon: in the hidden lowliness of the cross. In the ordinary humility of a defenseless, tiny child – probably the last thing Simeon expected. All of God’s promises wrapped up in the human flesh of a 40 day old infant in his arms. Simeon’s consolation and ours is found in the Child of the Manger. Simeon’s redemption and ours is found in the redemption of this Man on the cross.
For the greatest sacrifices Mary and Joseph brought to the temple that day weren’t the turtle doves or pigeons, but the little child, Jesus. And Jesus is your consolation and redemption.
Your consolation is in that 40-day old child, who fulfills and keeps the whole Law for you. Your consolation is in the fulfillment of Simeon’s words to Mary: “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” Your consolation is in the fall, the death of your sin and the rising to new life in Baptism. Your consolation is found in the Lord of all who becomes the Servant of all, to redeem you and Simeon and a fallen world.
Your redemption is in that child who grew into a Man, in order to go to the cross for you. Your redemption is in that Man whose blood sets us free from our impatient, sinful, self-loving ways. Your redemption is found in Jesus who perfectly fears, loves, and trusts the Heavenly Father, not for himself, but for you. So that your redemption is also found in the blood shed from the cross, poured out in the chalice for you; in his body broken in death for you.
And that’s where we join in Simeon’s song. Simeon sang: “Lord, now your servant departs in peace.” Do you know what he’s saying there? He’s ready to die, free to die in the promises of Jesus. But don’t think that Simeon’s song is a dirge. It is a joyous song. Depart in peace, he sings.
And so do we. Rejoice. Your life is hidden in Christ. Rejoice, your death is also in his hands. That’s why we sing Simeon’s song as we leave the Altar. There’s even an old saying in our Lutheran church, that, "We go to the Sacrament as though we were going to our death, so that we might go to our death as though going to the Sacrament" (Ken Korby).
We’ve held Jesus in his flesh and blood, just like Simeon, only better. We’ve received his forgiveness and promise, just like Simeon, only better. We’ve worshiped the Child of the manger, the Man of the cross. We’ve seen Jesus; we’ve tasted his salvation; we have beheld His glory, hidden beneath word and water, bread and wine. And now we can truly depart in peace, according to God’s Word.
The wait is over. Jesus is here. Our waiting and our consolation; our hope and our redemption; our life and our death. all in secure in this Child of the Manger and the Man of the Cross, just as it was for Simeon. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.”
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.