Luke 2:22-40 (First Sunday after Christmas—Series B)
“The Nunc Dimittis”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 31, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 2:
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon. We don’t know a whole lot about him other than what Luke records for us. He was a man in Jerusalem, a righteous member of the people of Israel. It is generally thought that he was an old man since he stated that he was ready to die, “to depart in peace.” He was devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel which would be given by the Messiah-Savior. Luke also tells us that the Holy Spirit was upon him.
You and I are probably most familiar with Simeon through the words of his song, the Nunc Dimittis, which is Latin for “now depart.” This is the canticle that we sing after the great celebration of the Lord’s Supper each week. Through this song, we are united in faith with Simeon and, like him, we now depart from the Divine Service in peace because our eyes too have seen God’s salvation. This morning we will see just how similar you and I are to Simeon.
The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon the Christ, the Savior, by leading Simeon to the Temple on the day that Mary, Joseph, and the forty-day old Jesus were there for the purification according to the Law of Moses. The Spirit led Simeon right to the One who was once the baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” As there was no doubt when the shepherds found the baby Jesus in the manger because of the sign the angel had given to them, there was no doubt for Simeon as he was led by the Holy Spirit to see the Lord’s Christ with his own eyes.
How are we like Simeon? The Holy Spirit has revealed and has led us to Jesus, too. By nature, as was Simeon, we are spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him. Because of this, the Holy Spirit has called us by means of the Gospel. He has invited us and drawn us by the Gospel to partake of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. For Simeon, it was the Gospel incarnate, the Word-made-Flesh Jesus Christ, dwelling among humanity in the arms of Mary that the Spirit used to call Simeon to faith. For you and me, it is the Gospel, the Word-made-Flesh coming to us in the Word of the Holy Scriptures that the Spirit uses to call us to faith and to reveal Jesus to us. We read in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And 2 Thessalonians 2:14 reminds us, “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel incarnate, Jesus Himself, Simeon’s eyes were opened to the Lord’s salvation, even though it was still wrapped in infant’s clothing. Through the faith created in his heart by the Holy Spirit, Simeon saw Jesus as the revealer of salvation to all nations. The Holy Spirit also uses the means of the Gospel message in His Word to give us the saving knowledge of Jesus so that we too trust, rejoice, and find comfort in the Savior. Indeed, through the water and the Word of Gospel in Holy Baptism, the Spirit has worked forgiveness of sins, rescued us from death and the devil, and has given you and me salvation through the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Having been led by God the Holy Spirit to Jesus, having received the gift of saving faith in the Christ whom he saw in Mary’s arms, Simeon received into his own arms the infant Savior of the world. What a moment that must have been for this man of God! How eternally special! How incredibly wondrous to be holding the very God who created heaven and earth now made flesh to save humanity from death and sin! As we sing in the Christmas hymn, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel!” (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” LSB 380)
“Immanuel,” God with us. That’s how we are also like Simeon. God is with us in the person of His incarnate Son, our Lord Jesus. Since we have received the gift of saving faith through the Gospel Word and Holy Baptism, we know that Jesus comes to us with the real presence of His true Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. You and I take into our hands and mouths Jesus Himself. Simeon held Jesus in his physical arms; we hold Jesus with the arms of faith and trust, taking Jesus at His Word that His true Body and Blood are actually present in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Sacrament of His Supper. The hymnwriter asks the catechism questions and answers, “What is this bread? Christ’s body risen from the dead. . . . What is this wine? The blood of Jesus shed for mine. . . . Yet is God here? Oh, yes! By Word and promise clear, In mouth and soul He makes us whole—Christ, truly present in this meal. Oh taste and see—the Lord is real.” (“What is this Bread?” LSB 629)
Jesus comes to us with His Body and Blood in His Supper. In this Sacrament, Jesus gives us the complete forgiveness of sins which He won for us when He went to the cross. He, the “sign that is opposed,” of which Simeon spoke, gave up His life into death so that you and I would have eternal life. Again today, Jesus comes to this sanctuary, to this altar, and to this people waiting for the consolation of God with the gift of Himself for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Because of the gift of Jesus the Savior, as Simeon did, we also bless and praise the Lord. In the Divine Service, we receive Jesus’ Gospel of forgiveness and life into our hearts through the hearing of His Word. We eat and drink with faith Jesus’ true Body and Blood with the bread and wine for forgiveness and salvation. Then we sing just like Simeon. In fact, we sing the song of Simon the Nunc Dimittis, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” What better words could we pray and sing to bless the Lord after having ourselves received the Lord’s Christ, Jesus, and His salvation?
Today, Jesus has come to us in His Gospel and Sacrament. Therefore, you and I, like Simeon, are free to depart in peace. Jesus has set us free from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Because our eyes of faith have seen the salvation God has prepared for all peoples, we go forth in the peace of Christ, in the freedom of Christ, and in the power and love of Christ, who “gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). Go then in peace because you are free through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.