The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
It’s never been odd or alarming to hear an elderly Christian, particularly an elderly Christian who is bearing some exceptional cross of pain/grief, to lament how they’re still here and they wonder why God just doesn’t take them home to heaven already. They’re ready! All they’re waiting on is God! Given all the trials and tribulations of this past year, this lament has grown very strong, and it’s certainly not limited to only the elderly. It’s become rather popular with Christians of all ages (at least those old enough to understand what’s going on; those who can feel the weight of the crosses they’ve been given to bear this past year).
It’s with this in mind that I direct your attention to the events recorded for us in the Gospel lesson for today. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that Simeon was an aged, elderly man. We’re told that at the time when Mary and Joseph came to the temple, the prophetess Anna was eighty-four years old. But… we have no idea how old Simeon was. God doesn’t tell us. For all we know, he could’ve been younger than Mary and Joseph! However, it’s far easier to assume that Simeon was old and barely holding onto life until he could get that one fleeting glimpse of the Messiah before being mercifully released in death. We hear Simeon sing out about how he can now finally depart in peace because he’s finally borne witness to God’s promised Messiah in the flesh, and we automatically assume that Simeon was no different than our elderly loved ones who complain that God won’t let them finally depart in peace. However, God doesn’t tell us this. He never tells us how old Simeon is when this takes place. Why? Because the age of the saint has nothing to do with his/her fidelity. That’s what makes this such a profound expression of faith and trust in God’s almighty Word.
Forget about how old (or young) Simeon may have been. What matters is that Simeon fully believed that God was going to make good on His promise and save His people from all their sins through the Savior He would personally send into this world. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, Simeon was promised by God that he would behold the Messiah with his own eyes in his lifetime, before God would call him home to heaven. Simeon waited. He was faithfully patient, trusting that God knew what He was doing and was doing it all according to His divine timeline, working all things for the good of His people. Simeon had faith that God would work this promise and plan when the time was right. Now having personally beheld God’s all-redeeming plan of salvation in the flesh, in his arms, Simeon was joyously relieved. It doesn’t matter whether Simeon was 25 or 95 years old. He could now die perfectly happy and content, fully knowing and trusting that God was keeping His promise and actively saving His people from all sin, death, and damnation. He knew what was really important in terms of life and salvation, and he knew that he was holding it right there in his very arms. That’s faith! That’s trust!
How many of us can honestly lay claim to such a virtuous faith like that? Good things come to those who wait, right? We say that we believe that God works all things for the good of His people, and yet, unlike Simeon, how many of us will patiently wait for God to work according to His timeline and schedule? How often we jump the gun and try to “help” God out or speed up the process. How often we live our lives like, “my will be done,” fully expecting God to bless us and rubber stamp our selfish, impatient ways. Thank God that He is patient with us; patient and long-suffering and merciful.
My fellow redeemed: Look here. Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Here is your Lord, in His Word and in His sacrament of Body and Blood, in your midst, bringing you His eternal gift of salvation. Good things come to those who wait? Hah! God’s good things have already come, even to those of us who won’t wait or who won’t hear and see and believe what our Lord has already said regarding these blessed, sacramental gifts of Immanuel. It is my sincere hope and prayer that this Good News that Jesus Christ—the same Jesus Christ who took on your flesh, who was crucified and risen for the complete forgiveness of all your sins, and who is the same Jesus Christ who is here with you today; who is here with you always, even to the end of the age—fills your hearts and minds, filling you with faithful patience, joy, and peace so that you may patiently—even joyfully—endure in faith as you bear your crosses and make your way through this dark and shadowy valley.
Today, when we sing the song of Simeon after communing—the Nunc Dimittis—I hope and pray that these wonderful words of faithful contentedness and patience that we sing as we, like Simeon and Anna, receive, behold and give thanks for the very lamb of God, who takes away all the sin of the world, are not just muddled through or sung half-heartedly, as is sometimes the case, if we’re bold enough to confess the truth. In fact, I hope and pray that these tremendous words of faithful patience and contentedness in our Lord’s rich grace and forgiveness are in your hearts and on your lips every day, for better and for worse, richer/poorer, in sickness, in health… always. May your joy and peace and contentedness in your Lord be witnessed in all that you say and do until that wonderful time when our Lord and Savior mercifully frees you from this veil of tears and calls you home to live with Him in eternal joy and peace. Until then, though, may this same faithfully patient joy and peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and unto life everlasting.
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