Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Whenever families get together there is always a regaling of
stories of times past. Being the youngest of four kids, it was always about
what I did. How I did this or that. How they changed my
diapers and so forth. You oldest ones have got it going on, I'm telling you,
because no one has anything on you. Or maybe your parents talked about the
stories of when you were little, or when they first met, or stories about your
grandparents, stories about your aunts or uncles or cousins that were of great
import to you and to your family. This recollection of history, this retelling
of stories, is very vital to pass on to generation to generation.
What you just saw this morning at that font is the most
important story of all…more important than your birth day or your anniversary,
more important than your confirmation day…because there at that font you saw a
child born of God. You saw life being given in the midst of death and sin. That
is a story to remember. But the problem is that it's seen through the eyes of
faith and not seen necessarily with the eyes of the flesh, and that's the
For the Old Testament reading for the people of Israel they
saw it with their own eyes, didn't they? They were to be reminded that God
sacrificed the firstborn of all and preserved them because there was a lamb
slaughtered in sacrifice for them. And the Angel of Death passed over, and as
they left that practice was to be continued when they arrived in the Promised Land
where every firstborn male would be sacrificed for, whether animal or whether a
Then they said it very clearly, our Lord did. You are to
teach your children when they ask, "What does this mean Dad or Mom? Why
are you doing this?" They will know. That's the same gift you give to your
children when you tell them about what it means to be a baptized child. But
they have no recollection. You are their recollection. You witnessed it.
Just like all of us here can remind Nicholas and his brother, "We saw you
being baptized in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are no
longer a part of this world. You are separated out from this world. This world
and all of its inhabitants who do not believe shall perish and you who do
believe and have been given this gift shall live." That is just like in
the Old Testament reading. Wow!
As those Jewish, or Israel, inhabitants left the land of
slavery, the land of sin (symbolic), they could recall people they knew whose
firstborn died. The Egyptian woman with whom they would interact possibly in
the marketplace, her son died. The little boy…the Egyptian boy who played
together with their son or daughter died because of God. That's a lot like what
Simeon said to Mary, wasn't it? "…this Child is destined and appointed for
the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed."
How can something so beneficial, so full of grace, so
forgiving be coming from a God who would also allow people to not believe this.
Blessed are your eyes for they have seen what many long to see but do not.
Blessed are your ears for they have been opened and made to hear God's Holy
Word and believe in such promises. Blessed indeed are you for you are God's holy
ones brought forth from Egypt and stand to inherit the promised land of heaven
But in this world in which we live, unless there is this
demarcation, God's grace goes out the window. How so? Unless God is very clear
as to from what He has redeemed us, then to what He has given us into the
family of God would have no meaning. It would be completely moot, without
point. He must draw that line of demarcation as to His possession and those who
are not; His gift and those who do not have that gift.
But notice what Simeon said. Simeon did not talk in terms
that this Child who he held in his arms who controlled the world and gave life
to all including Simeon…who gave Simeon His Holy Spirit. This Child was given
as a gift of forgiveness for all. For this gift was performed in the presence
of all people. His cross wasn't just limited to those in Jerusalem. His cross
was for the Arabs. His cross was not just limited to the Middle East or to that
region of the world but for us, who live in this country that we do. That's the
great universality of God's gift of redemption.
But it's not received by all, and that's the paradox, isn't
it? That He shall be appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and
for a sign that is opposed. But you, you don't oppose Him. You say,
"Amen," to what God has done. But having said, "Amen," to
what God has done, how He has been born for you, how He has been sacrificed
for you so that the Angel of Death passes over you, so
that you stand to inherit the promised land of heaven. Others do not,
but He wishes to use you. Feeble and frail though you and I may think of ourselves,
He wishes to use you.
Think of the birth narrative in and of itself. When the
angels came and revealed themselves to the shepherds…and it was a glorious
sight, and there was great pomp and circumstance involved…it was only those
shepherds that they revealed themselves to. Why didn't they go on into
Bethlehem? Why didn't they go to Jerusalem and hover over the temple? Why
didn't they do a whole host of other things to reveal the Savior born for
all? They were to declare truth and now that they have declared truth, God
gave that gift to the shepherds. And the shepherds went and told people.
Whether they heard and believed or whether they didn't, the shepherds told that
truth that was told unto them.
Now Simeon…who by the way it's interesting…there are three
places right before he speaks the words as we know them…the Nunc Dimittis…before
he speaks that there are three places that the Holy Spirit is made very clear that
it's on this man. Here again, "…and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it
had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before
he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the Lord’s
temple…" God is saying something really important here. "I have
something important to tell you," He's saying. And Simeon, in front of who
knows whom, declares this great truth. Whether they believe or not, he declares
this great truth.
So where does Anna come in? Is she kind of like thrown in
there so God can tell all the ladies of His church that women are important
too? No. Anna is the second witness, isn't she? And as you know from the Old
Testament nothing can be confirmed without the witness of at least two people.
Anna is that second witness, but Anna's role is completely different than
Simeon is, like the angels, to declare that truth. Now that Anna
heard that truth and believed in that truth, because she too has been waiting,
she, it's written…not Simeon, but she…who goes and speaks of Him to all who are
willing to hear, to all who are waiting for the redemption of Israel. She was
the shepherds. Fascinating.
We've been given a great gift in that we are a part of a
catholic church that's worldwide that still clings to Simeon's words and has
the chutzpah to say they're important. So critically important are they that we
want to teach our children. You knew, "Lord now let us Thou Thy servant
depart in peace," before you could ever memorize them because you kept
hearing it over and over again and those words are deep in your heart and they
shall not be removed. Regardless of how dementia we may be or Alzheimer's, they're
there as God's Word of faith planted in your hearts. And that song has been a
part of the Church for well over 2,000 years…the Church, not the Lutheran Church,
the Church. What a great gift!
Simeon's proclamation is saying to you and to me, "We
have been delivered." Do you see that? Now, it's interesting in Moses'
account here and this proclamation, Moses is assuming all of the young children
are little Lutheran boys and girls because they're asking what we always ask in
the catechism, "What does this mean?" And so Mom and Dad told them
what does this mean.
That's exactly what we come here for, to hear again. What
does this mean? How does this fit into my life and in the relevancy of the big
picture? More importantly, how does this have anything to do with a baby being
baptized? Because that's where it all begins. Your exodus, your exodus
personally and very authentically from your bondage of slavery out of Egypt
was in your baptism. And now each time you take the great gift of feeding at
the manger of our Lord who is contained there in that manger you are eating the
very one unto whom you have been joined in your baptism.
What great gifts God has given and blessed are the eyes that
see what you see! And like Anna having heard such great truths and believing such
great truths… for we gather here waiting for that great deliverance…we do go
forth from here and we do tell others and we do invite them and encourage them
to come and hear these things, but we also know that not all will receive what
we have been given and we entrust them into the hands of a loving and gracious
Father who did such wondrous things in the presence of all people that all may
know and believe. It is in the name of the one who bound Himself to that boy
and to you and who has chosen to be found in that Word and Sacrament to be
eaten and drank, to be joined to again, to be delivered again, and to go forth
proclaiming the great things that God has done. In His Name, Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.