141228 Luke 2:25-40

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 December 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

William Chatterton Dix isn't exactly a household name, but you are probably familiar with some of his work. Dix was a businessman who lived in England in the 1800s, and his day job as a marine insurance manager allowed him to pursue his real passion when he wasn't working.

William Dix liked to write hymns, and he was pretty good at it. In fact, four of his hymns have made their way into our hymnal. We sang one of them on May 29. It was a Thursday, forty days after Easter, also known as the Festival of the Ascension of our Lord. Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (CW 169) is an Ascension hymn that comforts Christians with the knowledge that the Lord who has ascended into heaven is still watching over his people on earth.

We will likely be singing another one of Dix's hymns in the next week or two. As with Gladness Men of Old (CW 83) is sung during the Epiphany season, and the men of old are the Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King.

Dix's most famous hymn is a Christmas carol. I'm confident that you are all familiar with it...because we just sang it. Hymn 67 in Christian Worship begins with a question: What child is this? What is so special about this baby who was born 2,000 years ago, and why do millions of people around the world still celebrate his birth?

Simeon knew that answer to that question. Anna knew the answer to that question. Mary and Joseph knew the answer to that question. And by the grace of God so do we. And if anyone ever asks you to explain the meaning of Christmas, if anyone ever asks you who Jesus is, if you are ever asked...

What Kind Of Child Is This?

I. He is the long-expected Christ
II. He brings peace to the world

Jesus' parents were God-fearing Jews. Because they wanted to obey the Law of Moses and fulfill the rite of purification (see Leviticus 12:1-8 for the details), they brought baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem forty days after he was born. It was there in the temple courts where Mary and Joseph met a man named Simeon.

Not much is known about this mysterious figure. He has no official title. As far as we know he held no special temple office. His age is even a mystery to us. Simeon is simply called "a man," and this is what we know about him. Luke tells us that he was "righteous and devout," and that he was "waiting for the consolation of Israel."

Simeon was a good man, a God-fearing man. Simeon was righteous in the eyes of God, not because of what he had done for God, but because of what God had done for him. And he was devout. In other words, the faith that lived in his heart spilled over into his life.

As good as Simeon was, he was waiting for something better. He was waiting for "the consolation of Israel." The consolation of Israel was more than some consolation prize. Simeon anticipated the coming of the promised Messiah. Simeon longed for the consolation the Savior would bring to God's people, the comfort of knowing that sin is forgiven, the comfort of knowing that guilt is gone.

This Comfort-Giver had been promised to Adam and Eve way back in the Garden of Eden after the fall into sin. Abraham received the same promise of a Savior through whom all the nations on earth would be blessed. God promised King David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne and establish an eternal kingdom.

Simeon probably wasn't a person of power or prestige, but the Lord had given him some priceless information. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Christ with his own eyes. Try to imagine that. Imagine how Simeon felt, carrying around that promise day after day, waking up each morning wondering, "Is this the day? Is this the day it will happen? Is today the day I will meet the Messiah?"

Simeon was anxiously awaiting the birth of the Christ child, but he wasn't the only one. There were others who were longing for God's promise to be fulfilled. Among them was an old prophetess by the name of Anna.

Like Simeon, Anna was familiar with Old Testament prophecies about the Savior. For many years she had been watching and waiting for the Messiah. Not an earthly king who would usher in a new golden age for Israel, but the kind of deliverer who would rescue people from their sins.

To prepare for the Lord's coming, Anna dedicated herself to the Lord. Not just for an hour or two on Sunday (or for Jews, Saturday) mornings. Not just when it fit into her busy schedule. Anna spent "day and night" in the temple worshipping and fasting and praying.

The Greek word used here for "prayer" refers to a specific type of prayer. Literally, it means "asking." Anna never stopped asking God to make his promises come true. Her undying devotion to the Lord was matched by her unwavering trust in the Lord.

Patience is a virtue. You have probably heard that proverb before, but did you know that it continues? It goes like this: Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can. Seldom found in woman, never in a man.

That's more than a cute little rhyme. It speaks the truth. It speaks volumes about our sinful human natures. In our express delivery, fast food, instant access world people don't like to wait at all, much less wait patiently for what they want.

We get annoyed if we have to stand in line for a few minutes at the store. We get upset if we have to sit in traffic. We get so angry so easily about so many things, trivial things, insignificant things, things that don't really matter.

Is our time really that important? Are we really that important? Do we have the right to become indignant? Do we have right to be so impatient? No, we don't. Because we are so selfish, so self-centered, so self important, we deserve to be punished. We need to repent. We need to learn how to wait. We need to remember that good things come to those who wait...like Simeon and Anna.

With hope and eager expectation, Simeon waited for the Messiah to be born. Even though Anna had been waiting for many years, her confidence never wavered. And as we will soon see, the patience of these believers was rewarded.

The good news is that we don't have to wait like they did. The Lord has made good on his promise to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David, to Simeon and Anna, to you and me. The long-expected Christ has come into the world, and what a child this is! This child brings peace to the world.

When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon was moved by the Spirit to approach them. Somehow the Holy Spirit let him know that this child was the chosen one, the promised one. Simeon's joy and expectation came to a climax as he took baby Jesus into his arms and exclaimed:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (29-32).

Simeon understood the believer's relationship with God. God is the master, and we are his humble servants. The Lord is in control of all things, and we thank him for his goodness. And because God made good on his promise, Simeon was ready to "depart in peace." He was at peace with God because he was literally holding "salvation" in his arms.

Simeon was on the receiving end of a very special blessing from God, but he recognized that this blessing was not for him alone. Jesus came to bring glory to Israel, but he would also be a light for the Gentiles. Simeon's song is music to our ears because it announces the good news that salvation is for all. We rejoice because Jesus came to save Jews like Simeon. We rejoice because Jesus came to save Gentiles like us.

When Anna found Mary and Joseph and Jesus in the temple, she responded with her own songs of praise. She kept on praising God because her prayers had been answered. The Savior had been born, and this little baby brought peace to the world.

It was this peace that angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas Eve: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). It was the same peace that Jesus shared with his disciples in the Upper Room: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you...Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). It is the same peace that Paul assures us is ours: "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

In a world where some people believe they are serving God by making themselves into human bombs, you still have peace. If 2014 was a difficult year for you, if you lost a job or a loved one, you still have peace. If there is tension where you work, if there is conflict in your family, you still have peace.

We don't know what the future holds. We don't know what will happen next year or next month or even next week, but because that little baby in Simeon's arms lived a perfect life in our place and died on the cross for our sins we have peace. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of the sermon I mentioned that four hymns written by William Dix are included in our hymnal. I made reference to three of them, but I failed to mention the fourth. Come unto Me, Ye Weary (CW 336) is the title, and it is based on Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

In this verse (and in this hymn) our Savior comes to us and says: "If you are in trouble, if you are in danger, come to me. If you are weighed down by life's problems, come to me. If you are burdened by your sin, if you are totally exhausted trying to make up for your sins, come to me and I will give you rest."

It is a great comfort to know that Jesus invites us to come to him, but today it gives us even greater comfort to know that Jesus has come to us. He came as a little baby. He came in fulfillment of prophecy. He is the long-expected Christ, and by his coming he has brought peace to the world. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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