The mighty Lord returned on this day to His Temple. He who was worshiped by the people of Israel was carried into His own house in the arms of Saints Mary and Joseph.
Most did not recognize Him for who He truly was. Yet Simeon did. Simeon saw, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and welcomed the Lord God to His own Temple.
As Simeon held the tiny Baby in his arms, he spoke of the salvation that had come to bring glory to the people Israel.
In ancient days, the glory of God had rested upon the Tabernacle, when a pillar of cloud and fire accompanied it. Again, when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the glory of God filled the Most Holy Place, so that the priests could not enter there. Yet in the time of the Babylonian captivity, Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart from the Temple. That Temple was destroyed. In its place, another was built. Yet the glory of God did not appear in that second Temple, and the people wept that the glory was missing.
To this temple, the Baby Jesus came. Although that forty-day old holy Child was surely beautiful and cute, He did not visibly show that within His tiny flesh dwelled the true glory of the eternal God, the exact image of the Father’s majesty.
When Christ was carried into the Temple, the glory of the Lord had finally arrived. God in human flesh was in His house.
He is the glory of His people. Israel’s honor was that God dwelt among them. Now Christ was there, the Son of God, a fellow Jew who exalted His earthly race by stooping low to live among them.
The people did not deserve it, any more than we deserve His presence among us. Simeon described Him as the Bringer of salvation, light, and glory. But if He brings it, then it was lacking before this time. In other words, the people were lost, and in darkness, and the shame of sin. They need Him who was Savior and Light of the world, and who is the glory of His people.
The Jews did not want to hear such things. They were largely overtaken by the spirit of the Pharisees. “We are not in darkness. We are not lost. We are not shameful. We are the children of Abraham. How dare you suggest that we need saving?”
Those silly Jews! How could they not realize their great need for the Messiah?
Yet notice that Simeon also mentions us Gentiles. We are also in need, as much if not more so than the Jews. The Jews at least had the glory of God dwelling among them at one time. They at least had the revelation of God in the holy Torah. We gentiles who had none of these things lived in a thick darkness of ignorance and unrighteousness.
Well, that was the ancient gentiles. We are just fine. Look how we are in God’s house tonight! We are here, and not even on a Sunday!
It is not hard to hear the voice of the Pharisee inside us. We want to deny that we need the Light of the world. We want to deny that we are shameful. Maybe we have a few blemishes here and there, but not actually shameful. We like Jesus, and want Him around, but shy away from acknowledging just how lost and corrupt we are without Him.
Our lives are shameful indeed. We should be filled with the glory of the image of God in which we were created. But instead we follow corrupt deeds and unclean thoughts. We fall short of the glory of God in ourselves, even now that we have received His Gospel.
We indeed carry darkness inside us. For although we have been translated into the kingdom of God’s light, yet the old Adam in us is as blind and lost as he ever was. You do not have to look far to see his influence on our lives.
We need saving. True, we have been saved, at the Font and by the Word. Yet He keeps sending His saving Word to us because that salvation is necessary to us. To keep us in salvation, to strengthen us for good works, to comfort us in our many afflictions, He sends us His Gospel again and again. We do not receive salvation once and then we are done. He keeps giving it, to overflow with His grace to us who need it so badly.
So the glory of God comes to dwell in us. We are now the new Temple made of living stones. We were not born with the glory of God. Yet He who is the glory has come to us. Christ the Savior is among us, signifying that we, even we outsiders, we gentiles, are now His people. He did not count our darkness as a deterrent. Instead He filled our darkness with His light, for He is the Light of light. Our shamefulness did not keep Him from us. Instead, He took our shame upon His shoulders, and carried it upon His flesh, to destroy it by His sacrifice.
To reassure us yet again and give us more of His consolation, He comes to us in bodily form in the Sacrament of the Altar. His Body appears to be nothing – only a piece of bread. Yet by the grace of the Holy Spirit we recognize who is there. Concealed in that wafer is the entire glory of the Son of God, given for us to eat. Concealed in the wine is the same holy Blood, shed by the precious Sacrifice, the Child of the Virgin who is the Lamb.
We receive this Body and Blood, and hold it in our hands and on our tongues. The pastor lifts it up with exaltation, as Simeon rejoiced at the bodily presence of the Messiah. When we have handled and touched Christ this way, we sing out with Simeon, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation, which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all nations; a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of Thy people Israel.”
We are all Simeons at that moment. We are all declaring that we are ready for death, for Christ is our glory. The Lord may call us home whenever He desires, for we are His lowly servants. We have done the best thing on this earth that can be done: We have gazed upon the Body and Blood of our Lord, He who is called Salvation and Light and Glory.
Because we have His promises for us, we need not fear death. Even when our sinful flesh falters and we feel earthly fear at that dark portal, still we have Christ before our eyes. He, the Firstborn, has led the way. He was born first in the new way, by the Holy Spirit, not by the will of man. He died a pure death, making all the deaths of His saints a precious thing in His sight. And He has become the Firstborn from the dead, who rose on the third day. Therefore we shall rise like Him, clothed in immortality as He is, clothed in His glory as sons of God.
Until that day, the Spirit keep you in this faith and hope. Amen.
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