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Sermon December 31, 2023

Christmas 1 B 2023 Sermon Are You Ready?

Luke 2:22-40

 Are you ready?  Are you ready to leave behind the Year 2023?  Are you ready to put the Year 2023 behind you and move on to whatever the New Year will bring?  I hope so.  Because you do not have much time.  Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, the Year 2023 will be over, and it will be the Year 2024.  Let me be the first to say to you “Happy New Year!”    

This morning, in our Gospel text, we meet a man who was ready for whatever might happen next.  His name is Simeon.  And Simeon was ready for whatever God had in store for him.  In fact, Simeon was ready to leave everything behind and depart in peace.  

And why did Simeon feel this way?  Let me set the scene for you.  It’s forty days after the birth of Christ.  And the location is the City of Jerusalem.  And the event that was about to take place occurred in the Temple.  It took place at the Temple because after the birth of a first-born son, the parents were obligated to go to the Temple and offer up a sacrifice to the Lord.    

The parents were obligated because the first-born sons of Israel had been spared from death at the time of the Passover in Egypt, and these first-born boys now were to be dedicated to the Lord and offered for His service.

In our Gospel text today, Mary and Joseph were fulfilling this requirement.  Mary and Jospeh were on their way to the Temple to fulfill Christ’s dedication.

And lo and behold, waiting for them at the Temple was a man named Simeon.  Our text states: “In Jerusalem lived a man named Simeon who was a good man and godly. He was waiting for the time when God would take away Israel’s sorrow, and the Holy Spirit was in him. 26 Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Christ promised by the Lord. 27 The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to do what the law said they must do, 28 Simeon took the baby in his arms and gave thanks and praise to God.” Luke 2:25-28 New Century Version

Simeon as waiting for the “consolation of Israel.”  Simeon was waiting for the comfort the Lord had promised to His people. 

“Comfort, comfort my people” the prophet Isaiah had spoken centuries earlier, and Simeon was waiting, and wanting to see the fulfillment of that promise. Isaiah 40:1     

And suddenly the comfort of the Lord came upon him, in the form of a baby.  And Simeon rejoiced and praised God saying “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your Word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  Luke 2:28-32

Simeon recognized the consolation of the Lord with the help of the Holy Spirit.  The child he held in his arms was in fact the promised One, the One who would usher in God’s Kingdom of comfort and glory.  The child was the one whom he had been told would come before he would taste death. 

And now that the child had come, Simeon thanked God for fulfilling His promise to him.    Having held the Christ Child in his arms, Simeon felt blessed and he was at peace and ready for whatever might come next, including his own death.

And the Good News is that the Christ Child comes to us too.  In Word, Sacrament, fellowship, and in ministry together we experience the presence of the Lord in our lives.  And we too can praise God for the salvation that comes to each one of us through our faith in Christ Jesus.

And we can face whatever comes our way this week, or in the year ahead that starts tonight at midnight.  No matter what may come our way, health issues, financial issues, broken relationships, depression, war, nothing can separate us from the love God has for each one of us.

Not even death can separate us from God.  We are saved not because of our merits, but because of the Redeeming Activity of the One Simeon held in his arms who took upon Himself the sin of the whole world and paid the price for this sin. 

Simeon was ready.  We too are ready.  And this fills us with hope.  It provides a peace that surpasses all understanding.  What a joy it is to know that our future is secure.  What blessing this brings to you, your family, and this congregation.

Simeon, we hear you.  Your song is our song too.  For Christ has come into this sanctuary and the Holy Spirit has revealed Him to us.  And now we too are ready to depart in peace.

And we can joyfully sing “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever.  Amen. 

I want to wish you and your loved ones a Happy and Blessed New Year.

Let us pray: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was presented in the temple and acclaimed the glory of Israel and the light of all nations.  Grant that we may be presented to you through the Redeeming Activity of Jesus Christ our Lord and that our lives may reflect His glory.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.