For evil, suffering and death, the answer can only be found in The Holy Gospel — The Good News of God’s Love for us in Christ. The answer to all three of those problems which remain beyond human solution and all other human problems was loudly proclaimed in the oldest of all Christmas hymns. 

“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,

according to Thy Word;

for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation

which Thou has prepared before the face of all people” 

“Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation Which Thou has prepared before the face of all people.” 

We are told these words were spoken by a righteous man whose name was Simeon — a name which means “a person who hears and obeys” -- an appropriate name for a man who is righteous, meaning that, by the Grace of God, Simeon was everything God created, called, and redeemed him to be ... meaning that, by the Grace of God, Simeon was living his life completely through his faith in God and in God’s promises.

Luke also tells us Simeon was a devout man, meaning that Simeon was committed to worshiping and serving God ... his vocation (his calling in life) was to worship and serve God.

This truly righteous and devout man was looking for the consolation of Israel — looking for Israel’s pa??-???s?? — a Greek word which describes the One Who brings true and everlasting comfort, consolation, and refreshment — a Paraclete for Israel and, ultimately, for everyone in this entire universe who believes in Him.  Simeon’s entire life was committed to looking for The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior Who would be Ultimate Supplier of the ultimate answer to the ever-elusive evil, suffering and death. 

How many families Simeon had seen over the years entering the temple and participating in the rites – how would he recognize the family that brought The Child Who would bring The Lord’s Salvation?

Inspirited by The Spirit Simeon came into the temple at the right time and when the parents brought in The Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of The Law, Simeon took Him up in his arms and blessed Him, “Lord, now letest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word, for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples – a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of Thy people Israel.” 

“Lord, now letest thou Thy servant depart in peace.”  Having truly had that most blessed encounter, Simeon prepared to depart – filled with that Peace which can only be ours in Christ – filled with The Peace of God which passes all human understanding – filled with The Peace of God which kept Simeon’s heart and his mind in that true Source of Peace Christ Jesus.

“Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation” – with his own eyes, Simeon had seen God’s Own Plan of Salvation.  He had seen God’s Own Word in the human flesh and vulnerability of The Infant Jesus.  He had seen and held The Christ Child in his own arms and The Holy Spirit had revealed to him the meaning of Jesus’ life. 

“Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation Which Thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples” – Simeon has seen God’s long promised Son Who came to save all people – “a Light for Revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

Glory to Israel - those Chosen People of God through whom the Prophecy was proclaimed and the Promises revealed down through the centuries of Old Testament history and through whom — in the person of  Mary — The Christ entered the world of humanity to save us.  God’s Glory to God’s people Israel was not a glory to be treasured in secret and hidden away like some cache of gold.  The Source of Israel’s Glory was to be shared with the entire universe.  In that sharing, the Glory would become ever more luminous to Israel herself and to the world.  Jesus was the Fulfillment of Israel’s existence - the glory of God’s people Israel.

The Gentiles were pagans who had ignored or failed to hear the wonderful Word and Promises of God. Our ancestors were worshiping the sun, the moon, various animals, mythological gods and goddesses when those Judean evangelists Peter and Paul and the other apostles came to proclaim The Good News to them.  What a debt we owe to them for pointing our ancestors — and us — to Jesus, a Light for revelation to us Gentiles. 

Holding Baby Jesus in his arms, Simeon could joyfully say “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your Salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people.”

Simeon’s heart and mind were truly at peace because he had complete assurance that his temporal and eternal life was in God’s Own loving hands. How miraculous that Simeon could say “I am free to live now and eternally because I have seen Your Love and I have seen Your Promise fulfilled this very day.  Now I am free to live and I am free to pass through death into eternity.”

It is not difficult to understand why so many of us love Simeon’s hymn of praise and find that hymn so easy to relate to.  The Holy Spirit has enabled us — like Simeon — to see God’s Salvation and to know Jesus as our own personal Lord and Savior.  We know we are going to live forever in the visible Presence of God — not because of any wonderful things you and I have done with our lives — but because of what Jesus has done with our lives.  “Lord, mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation and I know it belongs to me now and eternally ... and to all people who believe in You.”

“Behold, This Child is set for the fall

and rising of many in Israel,

and for a sign that is spoken against

(and a sword will pierce your own soul also)

that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

And Jesus’ father and mother marveled at what was said about Jesus by this Spirit-filled man.  But Simeon looked at Mary and a trace of sorrow crossed his face as he said, “Behold, This Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce your own soul also) that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Through God’s Grace and the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, Simeon prophesied “This Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel”.  "Who is Jesus and how will I respond to Him?" is life's ultimate question.  In the answer is our fall or our rising now and eternally.  Neutrality is the same as rejection and leaves us just as condemned and without hope -- just as weaponless against evil, suffering, and death.

Tragically, Simeon had to tell Mary, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” and Joseph and Mary did not have to wait long to see that prophecy come true.  Within months, King Herod launched a campaign of slaughtering babies in an attempt to kill the Infant Jesus – even as terrorists today try to stamp out Christian Faith by murdering innocent children.

“This Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is spoken against.” In the United States of America, Christians are not murdered for our beliefs -- but attacks on our beliefs and moral values are stronger and more vicious than at any previous time in our history.  There is a concerted effort to silence the beliefs and practices that make us what we are as Christians -- and that, not coincidentally, have made our nation the model of liberty, freedom, and justice it has become for the entire world.

Mary – in that happy moment with her new Baby Jesus – could not possibly have known that Simeon was referring to that dark Friday afternoon three decades in the future when her heart would be broken as she stood sobbing beneath a cross outside the city of Jerusalem – across town from where she now stood in the temple with history’s most precious Baby.

Many have rejected Jesus and lost their souls as Jesus was set for the fall of many in Israel and throughout the world.  How blessed are we that Jesus is also set for the rising of many in Israel and throughout the world?

“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,

according to Thy Word;

for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation

which Thou has prepared before the face of all people” 

Simeon was prepared to depart from the temple in peace – to live out his temporal life as a person of God in all his worldly encounters – or to depart this temporal life in peace to enter eternity in the visible Presence of God.

God’s life as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ - His suffering and dying on the cross for our sin - His resurrection from the dead - the divine invitation for us to spend all of eternity in His Visible Presence — all forces us to make the most important decision in our entire lives - to live eternally with Him or to die without Him. “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; for even more than Simeon our eyes truly have seen Thy Salvation Which Thou has prepared before the face of all people.”

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR.  AMEN.

+________________________+

The First Sunday of The Christmas Season

December 31, 2017

 

Dr. Kurt Borows

Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio

 

Bible Verse of the Day

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