Summary: Christmas 1 (B). By faith Simeon and Anna saw the fullness of redemption in Christ at His presentation in the temple. Likewise by faith, we see now the fullness of our redemption in Him, even though the future is yet to unfold.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“The other side of Christmas”
We have been preparing for weeks. With Advent services and Advent candles, and Lessons and Carols, and Nativities here at church. And with trees, and lights, and cards, and cookies at home. We’ve prepared gifts, and we’ve prepared food. Rather, I should say, some of us have prepared food, others of us have eaten it. The songs have been sung, the gifts have been given, and the presents unwrapped. And now we are on the other side of Christmas.
St. Luke’s gospel for today continues on the other side of Christmas. This is the presentation of Jesus and Mary in the temple, 40 days later. On our calendar that falls on February 2, to give you some frame of reference for the time. Jesus is being presented in the temple for dedication to God, since His is the first born child. Mary is coming to the temple for a sacrifice of purification. Childbirth rendered a woman as unclean. 40 days was the time appointed before the sacrifice could be made that rendered her clean again.
It is here that we have evidence Joseph and Mary were poor, at least at that time in their life, because they brought the sacrifice of two pigeons or turtledoves. That was the sacrifice allowed for the poor. Had they been of means, a lamb would have been required.
Simeon is in the temple, and he is aged. He had received a promise for God that He would not die until He saw the Messiah. Mary and Joseph are entering the temple. Seeing them, he takes little Jesus in his arms, and says those words we know so well,
Lord, now let your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled.
Mine own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before
the sight of all people.
Two things are happening here. First - the promise was that he would live to see the Messiah. So how is it, that he knows that this little baby, this Jesus, is the Messiah? The Holy Spirit is showing it to him by faith. For, as our text says, he was a righteous and devout man. We read this and because we know all about Jesus, we know that He is the Messiah. But Simeon did not know about Jesus. Jesus had just been born. The only way for Simeon to know this baby was the Messiah was the same way he received the promise from God, by the Holy Spirit. And this leads us to the second thing that is happening. Listen again to Simeon’s words. “Mine own eyes have seen Your salvation.” Not “Mine own eyes have seen Your 'Messiah,' ” but 'salvation'. So what did Simeon see? First, he saw a baby. That’s easy. That’s in the natural. But he also saw that this baby was the Messiah. And then, on top of that, he saw that this Messiah was the salvation of God. Jesus was only a baby. Jesus had not taught a word, much less suffered, died, and rose again. But Simeon saw the end in the beginning. He saw the completion of the salvation of God.
There was also a woman, Anna. She too was aged, and she was always in the temple praying. When she saw Jesus, she told anyone and everyone who were looking for the redemption of Israel about this Jesus. She too, saw the Messiah. By faith, she saw the end in the beginning.
Well, Vicar, it is true. They were seeing only the infant Jesus, and in Him, they saw the complete redemption by Christ. Christ’s Passion, His suffering, death,and burial had not yet occurred. Nor had He risen from dead. They did not live to see these events. So they had to see the end from the beginning. But we, Vicar, are on the other side. We have seen His crucifixion and His resurrection. That Simeon and Anna could see the whole story in one moment was important for them, but why does that matter to us?
It matters because the pattern of Christ’s life is the pattern of our lives. Let me repeat that. The pattern of Christ’s life is the pattern of our lives. Here, Christ has been born, He is brought to the temple and dedicated to God. He still has to suffer, die, and rise again. We, Church, have been brought to the Church. We have been dedicated to God. We have been born again in the waters of Holy Baptism. In that baptism our salvation was fully complete. Our life is hidden in the life of Christ. Our salvation is certain and it is sure. True, we still have a life to live here. As Christ did before us, we too will suffer. We have yet to die and rise again. Even as Simeon and Anna, standing on the other side of Christmas, by faith saw the completion of the redemption of Israel, we by faith see the completion of our redemption. By faith we know that we will rise again when Christ comes. We know that we will live with Him in His kingdom forever.