Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seeing Salvation

First Sunday after Christmas
John, Apostle and Evangelist
December 27, 2009
Luke 2:22-40

There are a lot of unknowns about death. We don’t know what it’s like after we die. We don’t know what it’s like to die. Even if you see someone die you can’t know what you go through until you have yourself. Death is a part of this world. When sin came into the world, so did death. Now we all face death, just as we all daily struggle with sin.

Death may be an unknown. It may not be the way God designed things. But death for the Christian is actually a blessed thing in God’s eyes. When a Christian dies his eyes are opened to the wonders of eternal life. Life with God in heaven is without sin and sorrow, without struggle and pain.

But for now there are the unknowns. When we will die. What it will be like. How we’ll manage if our children die before us. What we’ll do if Mom or Dad die before we do. We face unknowns but want to see clearly.

Paul says that now we see in a mirror dimly, then we will see face to face. We will see salvation in all its glory, as God designed it, when we get to heaven. Paul also says that we don’t walk by sight but by faith. We walk a path in which we can’t see the end. This is really hard to do when your loved one is laying on the table facing surgery or on their death bed or you get a call that they’ve been in a horrible car accident.

Death is staring us in the face in those times. Death seems the more powerful one to follow if we go on what we can see. We can’t see God. We can’t see the salvation He has promised us.

But actually we can. And actually we do. You see, sin is not the only thing that entered the world. God Himself has entered the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come and many people saw Him. You can’t see salvation in all its glory, but you can see it. And you do.

Simeon is the one who shows us how this is true. When he sees Jesus he sees his salvation. Jesus is the salvation of the world. Luke tells us that it had been revealed to Simeon “by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon didn’t know when his death would come. He didn’t know what it would be like. But he knew he would see the Messiah. He knew he would see the One God would send as the Savior for the world.

When Simeon saw Him he didn’t say, Lord, now I have seen your Savior. He said: “my eyes have seen Your salvation.” In seeing the Savior he was seeing salvation. He spoke a prayer of praise and thanks that is well known to us: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

It’s well known to us because we sing these words after we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is what the Scriptures mean by walking by faith and not by sight. Your Savior comes to you and you have salvation. When you see your Savior you are seeing salvation. If He were easily identifiable there would be no reason for faith. We couldn’t really trust in Him because we would rely on our own ideas of what our Savior should be like. We would want to determine how our salvation is brought about.

But how does our Savior come? How is it we see our salvation? In an infant being brought to the temple. Simeon rejoiced at seeing the infant Christ. After his many years of living on this earth; having been brought to the point where he knew death was drawing near, he could have seen that little child and wondered, God is this all you have to offer? You’re going to save the world through this?

It’s the same way for us. When we see the bread and wine on this altar do we see our Savior? Do we rejoice in seeing our very salvation? The bread and wine that has been consecrated by His sacred words are His very Body and Blood. We literally see our salvation, just as Simeon did. He was looking at a baby, we bread and wine.

Simeon even saw why He was looking at the salvation of the world. Mary was bringing her infant Son to the temple that day to fulfill the Law of God. Imagine what she felt when she heard the next words of Simeon: “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Thirty-three years later she would not be holding her precious infant Son. She would be standing before Him as He was hanging and bleeding on a cross. She would be seeing salvation with her very own eyes, a sword piercing her soul as she saw her Son suffering on behalf of the world.

We don’t want to see our salvation in the way God brings it. We want it painless. That’s how we think of salvation, as release from our pain and suffering. But God brings His salvation to us through suffering, but specifically through the Suffering of His Son. He is our salvation. When we look to the cross we see our salvation. When we look to the place where He comes to us we see our salvation. His body was sacrificed on the cross and is given for you for your forgiveness in His Holy Supper. His blood was shed on the cross and is delivered to you for your forgiveness in His Sacred Meal.

We may depart in peace as Simeon did. Whether that be at the end of our life as it was with him or whether simply at the end of the worship service. We’re like Simeon as we await the day when Christ will come to us again in glory. Most people don’t recognize Jesus when He comes. They don’t see their Savior lying in a manger. They don’t see their salvation hanging on the cross. They don’t believe they receive forgiveness and salvation in Christ’s Holy Supper. But on the Last Day there will no mistaking Him. In the Introit we spoke these words: “and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.”

Most people don’t know this. We do. Even Mary and Joseph needed a little education on their infant Son from Simeon. We depart in peace from here having seen our salvation so that we may make it known to those who do not know it. And even those who do but are struggling in their faith. And when we ourselves run into these struggles, when we’re facing death or difficulties, we may rejoice that we have seen our salvation. We may rejoice that He will bring us to a blessed end where we will see face to face in eternal glory. Amen.


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