Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sermon: Luke 2: 22-40 Simeon's Salvation Song

If you could have been at one of the moments of Jesus’ life, which would you choose? Perhaps you would like to have been present in the stable as the shepherds came to see the newborn King. Or maybe being in the crowd during a miracle. Perhaps you would want to have been watching the crucifixion, or being near Mary Magdalene in the garden as she met the risen Jesus. You can tell me afterwards which you would choose!

As you think about it though, you might choose a moment which would encourage and confirm your faith - seeing the risen Jesus, so that you know for sure that he has risen. Maybe it would be something spectacular, like the feeding of the five thousand. My guess, though, is that you wouldn’t choose a glimpse of a forty day old baby in the temple. Yet today we’re going to hear of a man who did just that, and he was so excited that he was moved to sing about it.

The setting for our reading is the Temple in Jerusalem. There, two linked ceremonies are happening, to fulfil the Old Testament Law. Mary and Joseph have brought the infant Jesus, because the Law demands that a mother who has given birth must be purified through a special offering, (in this case, the ‘poor’ option of two pigeons, rather than a lamb), and also the offering of the male firstborn to God. But as these ceremonies are going on, something much more important happens.

Meet Simeon. We’re not told how old he is, but we presume he was an old man. Simeon, we’re told, is waiting for the consolation of Israel. Israel, you might remember, was being ruled over by the Romans, the latest in the series of conquerors controlling the land. Simeon is waiting for the promised king, the one who will comfort Israel, the hope of Israel.

In verse 26, we’re told that Simeon knows (by the Holy Spirit) that before he sees death, he will see the Lord’s Christ. What a promise! Before you die, you will see the one who will rescue Israel. Perhaps his mind raced with excitement as he looked forward to seeing free Israel and the Romans kicked out. He would maybe have imagined seeing the Christ arrive in splendour and power.

None of that happens though. Rather, he comes into the temple (remembering that there must have been other male children there that day too), and comes over to Mary and Joseph. He knows that this is no ordinary child. This is the Christ - but not as he perhaps expected.

Let’s look at his song more closely. He tells us that there are two groups of people who will see: first Simeon, and then all people. Simeon has seen ‘your salvation.’ Remember, he’s only seeing the baby Jesus, yet it’s enough to know that God is fulfilling his promises. He may not know how Jesus will bring salvation, but he knows who will do it. Would a glimpse of Jesus as a baby be enough for you to know God’s salvation?

Further, Simeon says that this child will be light for revelation to the Gentiles - to all people, as well as glory to his people, Israel. He’s picking up on our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 49. The nations will see the light of the Lord and come and be saved. As we meet this morning we are testimony of this, we are the fulfillment of Simeon’s song.

We have a privileged position. From our vantage point, with a Bible in our hands, we can see the whole of Jesus’ life, we can see how he saves. The question is, do you know this salvation yourself? Are you rejoicing in this salvation?

More than that, though, having seen God’s salvation, Simeon was ready to die. Someone once said that the Christian life is all about learning to die well, and to help others to die well. Are you helping others to face their death, as you point to the salvation found in Jesus?

Simeon encountered the baby Jesus, and rejoiced because he had seen salvation. As we meet today around the Lord’s table, we too rejoice as we celebrate the cross, the way the Lord saves.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Communion service in St Elizabeth's Church on Wednesday 9th February 2011.

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