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By Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.


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 “Things To Know Before You Must Go”
Luke 2:26ff
Rev. Wayne Dobratz

    The snowy, bitterly cold weather has prompted law enforcement officials, weather forecasters and AAA to remind travelers of what to take along on their Christmas journeys. The checklist includes a snow shovel, extra clothing, some candles, a cell phone, tire chains--and the list goes on. It's good advice. We might call it THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU MUST GO. 

    It's similar to the slogan of the famous credit card company: "Don't leave home without it." We could read this text in the same way. Old Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ, the child anointed to be our Savior, our High Priest and our King. Cradling the Child in his arms, Simeon breathes a prayer of thanks and tells the Lord, "Now I'm ready to go."


    Simeon knew he wouldn't die until he had seen Jesus, but none of us can be sure of when we will leave this earth. So in memory of a long Christian journey now completed, and with Simeon's faith in view, I share with you some THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU MUST GO...
    Here's the first thing: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." To be "righteous" means to be right in God's eyes. You can do that only by God's gift of righteousness which Jesus brings. The Bible says: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) Simeon had that peace with God. Simeon was "devout"--he inwardly grasped God's Word by faith.
    Here's the second thing: the Holy Spirit was upon him. Verse 26:
"It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ." Simeon lived with his times in God's hands, wanting to go home to the Lord, but he was told that something else must happen first. He would remain alive until he had seen the Savior. Verse 27: "Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God..."
    Many today would call that luck, but it wasn't. Simeon was in the right place at the right time because being in God's House was very important to him. Simeon received this blessing from God because he was in the Temple often, worshiping as God tells us to do. Psalm 26 says: 8 " I love the house where You live, O LORD, the place where Your glory dwells". That's why Simeon was blessed with seeing Jesus. (Name) received the same blessings by focusing her spiritual gaze upon Jesus, the Savior of all, by hearing God's Word and by receiving the Lord's Supper.

    Verse 28: "Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 'Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 which You have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.'"
    Praise God, when His children leave this earth they see Jesus face to face. What was faith becomes sight at the moment of death. We praise God that (name's) joy in Jesus in eternal life has just begun. We can say with Simeon: "My eyes have (also) seen Your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people..." Simeon is talking about you and me in this exalted prayer. He is praising God for shedding light upon Gentile generations yet unborn who will walk in the light of the Savior's amazing grace. Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.
    Jesus sheds light upon those living in darkness, just as Isaiah prophesied 700 years before: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." We can't imagine a Christmas without lights. Jesus is the Light of the world. To be without Him is to be in the dark. It is Israel's glory that Jesus came here as great David's greater Son. It is our glory to have His light shining upon us.    Luke finishes the story: 33 "The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'" For many folks, Christmas is a season of good feelings, feasting, gifts, and a few days off. But the birth of Jesus wouldn't mean much if the carpenter's foster son hadn't done some other work with wood and nails. He built a bridge over the gulf between sinful man and the holy God. A modern-day songwriter has written:

He uses wood and nails, for a carpenter is He;
and with them He constructs for man a brand new destiny.
Those wooden beams that reach from earth up to the sky above
and the nail prints in His hands will always prove His love!

  Simeon told Mary: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Old Simeon didn't know all the details, but he certainly had read that the Promised Savior would also be the suffering servant. Isaiah wrote (53:5): "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

    The word for "sword" means a large weapon, probably a javelin. When Mary saw her son's hands and feet pierced, a blade would run through her as well. To be sure He was dead, they pierced Him once more. He was "pierced for our transgressions, the punishment that brought us peace fell upon Him and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
    You recall the many times, dear family, when (name) would weep because of the discomfort sin brought into the world. Jesus takes the pain away and gives eternal life. The Scripture tells us: "God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21)
    In closing, hear Martin Luther's words of praise for the Savior of the world: "When the heaven, the stars, and the creatures stare at me in anger, I see nothing in heaven and on earth but this Child. This light should be so great in my eyes that I can say: 'Dear Mary, you have borne this Child, not for yourself alone. You are indeed His mother. But I have a greater honor than yours as His mother. Your honor is bearing  the body of this Child, but my honor is this, that you have my treasure, and I know no one, man or angel, who can help me as can the Babe that you, dear Mary, hold in your lap.

 The happy Christmas comes once more,
the heavenly Guest is at the door;
the blessed words the shepherds thrill,
the joyous tidings: peace, good-will.
 
To David's city let us fly,

where angels sing beneath the sky;

through plain and village pressing near
and news from God which shepherds hear.
 
Oh, let us go with quiet mind,
the gentle Babe with shepherds find,
to gaze on Him who gladdens them,
the loveliest Flower of Jesse's stem!
 
Oh, wake our hearts, in gladness sing!
And keep our Christmas with our King,
till living song, from loving souls
like sound of mighty waters rolls.
 
Come Jesus, glorious, heavenly Guest,
keep Thine own Christmas in our breast!
Then David's harp strings, hushed so long,
shall swell our jubilee of song.

(Charles Porterfield Krauth)
 
    Brothers & sisters, comfort one another with these words, in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:31 PM