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The Song of Simeon
Luke 2:29-32


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
First Sunday after Christmas—December 28, 2008

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

Our text is “The Song of Simeon” from today’s Gospel reading in the second chapter of St. Luke.  “The Song of Simeon” is sung by us in our liturgy after receiving Holy Communion.  In the liturgy it is named after its first two words in Latin, “Nunc Dimittis,” which means, “Now dismiss.”

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people: A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke tells us, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  “The consolation of Israel” is another way of saying the Messiah, the promised Savior.  That is why Simeon was a “righteous” man in the sight of God. Not because he was somehow perfect or sinless or holy in and of himself.  As St. Paul says in Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .  there is no one righteous, not even one.”  And as St. John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But, Simeon was righteous in the sight of God because he had faith in the Messiah, he trusted God’s promise to send the Savior of the world. 

That is how people were saved in Old Testament times: They were saved through faith in the Messiah, the promised Messiah who was to come.  That is also how you are saved: Through faith in the Messiah, the promised Messiah who has come, whose birth into the flesh nearly 2,000 years ago we are celebrating this Christmas. 

“Fear not,” said the angel to the shepherds, “For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  Through faith in the Messiah, Simeon was forgiven all his sins and declared righteous in the sight of God.  Through faith in the Messiah, you are forgiven all your sins and declared righteous in the sight of God.  As St. Peter says in Acts, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 

“It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  Luke doesn’t actually say that Simeon is as old man, but from these words we have the picture of an aged man who is approaching death.  Simeon has somehow received a special promise from the Lord that before he dies he will see the Lord’s Christ, before he dies the Messiah he trusts in will be born.

“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.”  To the other people gathered in the temple that day, Mary and Joseph were just one of many couples waiting to offer a sacrifice of purification, as the Old Testament required 40 days after childbirth; and Jesus was just one of many firstborn male babies waiting to be consecrated to the Lord, also required by the Old Testament law.  Moved by the Spirit, Simeon recognizes Mary as the Mother of our Lord; and he recognizes the baby Jesus as the consolation he has been waiting for, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.’”  Simeon is saying that he is now ready to depart from this life; he is now ready, prepared, to die.  And why is Simeon ready to die?  “ For my eyes have seen your salvation.”  Simeon is ready to die because the promised Savior has come.

That was the significance of Christmas, Christ’s birth, for Simeon: Because Jesus was born, Simeon was prepared to die.  That is also the significance of Christmas, Christ’s birth, for you: Because Jesus was born, you are prepared to die.

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.”  Emotionally, the thought of dying may still be full of trepidation for you, because death is something unknown, and it is natural for us humans to have a fear of the unknown.  But spiritually, you depart this life in peace, trusting the promises of Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live;” “In my Father’s house are many rooms; I am going there to prepare a place for you . . . I will come and take you to be with me;” “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation.”  That is why “The Song of Simeon” occurs where it does in our liturgy, after the reception of Holy Communion.  Just as Simeon was prepared to die after taking Christ in his arms, you are spiritually prepared to die after receiving Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, an assurance from the Lord of your eternal salvation.

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people: A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”  It was the glory of the people of Israel that the Messiah was born of their race.  But Jesus came as the Savior of all people, both Hebrew and Gentile.  Everyone is included in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, including you.  As St. John says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world,” and as the familiar John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Amen.

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