The Ninth Day of Christmas
January 2, 2020 A+D
St. Luke 2: 22-32
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Salvation shown to Simeon is a Baby 40 days old. His first moments out of His mother’s womb were marked by rejection in Bethlehem, poverty, and hardship, but also the worship of shepherds and angels. There at the Temple He has already shed His first blood and is already a sign spoken against. He was born under the Law and so a pair of turtledoves is offered for Him.
How soon after this do the wisemen come and unwittingly alert Herod to the threat? We do not know but suspect it is within the next 6-9 months, Herod casting his wicked net wider than necessary for he cares nothing for life or babies. That really ought to be the default definition of evil: willingness to kill babies for convenience or pleasure or power. God save us! We live in a most evil country where Herod would be right at home.
The Child of Mary is set for greater sorrows, for betrayal and false accusations, for torture, death by a cross, and a forsaking by His Father. But Simeon is full of joy. He has come to the end of his watch. His waiting for the Messiah is complete and he is ready for the ultimate reprieve, for the reward that is given in the forgiveness of sins.
The implied idea in the text is that Simeon walks out of the Temple and falls down dead. In this he rejoices. Death is not the end of Christians. It is instead a passage to the promised land. Simeon is eager for the time when he won’t have to tolerate Herod or corrupt priests or his own treasonous flesh but will be free of sin and guilt and all its consequences. This is the salvation and consolation for which he has waited and hoped. The Lord’s Christ has come to suffer in his stead and declare him righteous.
St. Paul gives voice to this in Philippians 1. He writes: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:20b-21, NKJ).
There are many passages of Holy Scripture that teach us to face death not only serenely, confident in God’s grace but also eagerly. Here are half a dozen:
“The wicked is banished in his wickedness, But the righteous has a refuge in his death.” (Proverbs 14:32, NKJV)
“You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” (John 8:15, NKJV)
“For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide Even to death.” (Psalm 48:14, NKJV)
“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:15, NKJV)
““I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.” (Hosea 13:14, NKJV)
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, NKJV)
We rightly take Simeon’s words and apply them to our reception of the Holy Communion. Having eaten and drank the risen Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are ready and even eager to die for the Holy Spirit is upon us. Christ will be magnified in our bodies, whether by life or by death. But for us, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. And we are ready.
In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.