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My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

December 29, 2018

Verse: Luke 2:25–2:32

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
December 30, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christmas 1
My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

Now behold! there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout waiting for the Consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, in order to do for him according to the custom of the law Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God and said, “Now Lord give your servant peaceful release in accord with your Word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people; a Light for revelation to the Gentiles; the Glory of your people, Israel. (Luke 2:25-32)

It is no over-statement to say that Lutheran liturgy is unique in many ways; and that the post Communion canticle we offer each week, called the “Nunc Dimittis,” is one of them!

Nor is the pastoral admonition to the members of Christ Lutheran Church an over-statement when he says that all of us should dedicate ourselves to the study of such high matters as these! This is accomplished by taking advantage of the several study opportunities offered here each week!

Your religion is your priceless treasure because everything else is tepid and temporary by comparison, and in the end disappoints. But the treasure of godly knowledge endures forever. And so may the spirit of “anorexia” be gone; and may the Holy Spirit fill us all, as he did Simeon, with love for the Consolation of Israel – love for Jesus our Savior and Lord.

When our fathers in the faith reformed the church’s damaged Mass in the 16th century, they added the Nunc Dimittis as the post-communion prayer – and what a prayer it is!

By using this Word of God, this New Testament canticle, at this juncture of liturgy the church relates the mystery of the Eucharist with the mystery of the Incarnation itself. That is to say with the mystery of Christmas.

While it is good liturgical practice to genuflect as we confess the Lord’s humiliation in the Creed – he came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary – it is fitting to bow even more deeply, and to show even more reverence at the words, “and was made man”! For this is the greatest mystery of all!

The mystery we will spend eternity joyfully and gratefully pondering; for then as now it is our life and salvation and source of indestructible life: that God gave his one and only Son to become man! in order to make us fully human again (as we pray in today’s Collect).

To purge us of our sins by the cross, and to re-make us into the image of God in the New and Eternal and Good Creation! This is the goal, and terminal point of our faith; and beyond it there is nothing at all!

Yes, all of those things are ours. All of those things happen to us because of the Lord’s incarnation on Christmas. And they keep happening to us over and over again (O Glorious Grace) as we Commune with the Lord at his altar each week. As he comes to us, in the flesh, in the Bread which we break, and the Cup which we bless.

And so no words could be a more appropriate response, and recognition by God’s people, of what happens as we leave the altar each week!

Like Simeon we too “depart in peace” – and WHAT a peace it is!

When you receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion you are ready for heaven! Fit for heaven! Worthy of heaven!

You shine like the transfigured Jesus and are made God’s “beloved sons;” the progeny of God; the “heirs of God” as St. Paul declares in Romans, and “co-heirs with Christ” of the Kingdom of God – and beyond that there is no other want or need.

By Holy Communion with Jesus you, too, are made “righteous and devout” like Simeon; for you, too, have seen the salvation of God, the “Consolation of Israel”.

Today you hold the same Lord in your arms that Simeon did, as you open your mouth to taste the Goodness of God.

Here is salvation, prepared in the sight of every people. Here is Light for the nations, and Glory for the church which is the “Israel of God.”

But there is more besides.

When we conclude our Eucharist with this hymn it is done in imitation of the “First Holy Communion” instituted on Maundy Thursday. We read in Holy Scripture that after the Meal “they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives”.

We do the same. Now Olive Mountain is the Spirit of our God for he is the One who anointed Jesus at his baptism; and anoints each of us at ours with the “oil of gladness.” Anoints us so that as we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” we too will be filled with the Simeon-like gladness of God himself.

Moreover as God’s people we stand like “Simeonian” sentinels eagerly awaiting the salvation of our God. A salvation which we not only enjoy; but which we are privileged to bring into the world by the very thing we are doing here today.

If you think that you are just “going to church” today you are missing the point. When we pray “thy kingdom come” and “thy will be done here on earth as it is in heaven” we must understand that that prayer is answered in what we do here today.

For it is here, in the church, that God’s Word is proclaimed in the dark world – and where his Word is he is! If you do not get that you miss the point. But today, Christ be praised, Simeon educates us in our frailty!

As he held God’s salvation for the whole world in his arms; he realized that Light and Glory have come into the world.

Just so the Eucharist we here celebrate and receive is Light for the Gentiles, and Glory for the Church which is the “Israel of God”.

It is the very thing which the church is commissioned to bring the world to. After all, why do we preach except to lead men to baptism. And why do we baptize except to lead them to the altar? This altar. This Sacrament. This “gift of God,” eternal life. And why bring humanity here except that this is heaven on earth, and entrance into the unending Kingdom of our God and of his Christ.

And so today we proclaim to the church and the world: “Take eat! Take drink! And then depart with Simeonian peace! Amen.