Did you also pray the bedtime prayer: “Now I lay me, down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take; and this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.?” I must admit that growing up, and using it every night with my two sisters and brother, they were just “words to say” – VERY FAMILIAR words – (like the Lord’s Prayer!) I really didn’t think much about what the words meant, especially not, “if I should die before I wake” – I just said the words.
The very same thing happened with Simeon’s song – the Nunc Dimittis. As I was growing up, we always sang it at the end of Communion. I knew the words and music by heart, and I remember liking it – not because I thought about the words, but because this indicated that the distribution of communion was finished and the service would soon be done! Can any of you relate to this with me?
As we read this “Song of Simeon,” I pray that these beautiful words might have renewed meaning for our lives so that from now on, it will not only be Simeon’s Song but it will also be our song as well!
The Gospel writer, Luke, tells us three important things about Simeon; important because they MUST also be true of us if the words of this song are to be our song as well.
- God’s Word specifically mentions the working of the Holy Spirit in Simeon’s life (three times!): “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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts (as) the parents brought in the Child Jesus…” (v.25-27b)
At Christmas, we celebrate the Gift of God the Father – sending His only-begotten Son, Jesus (God the Son) to be born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. And at Christmas, we are also reminded that it is God the Holy Spirit who also gives the GIFT of “seeing Jesus” with the “eyes of faith.” We confess in the Small Catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, My Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…”
And the way it was with Simeon is the same for you and me today – there was no big fanfare. God’s Word doesn’t tell us HOW it was revealed to Simeon “that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” nor how he was “moved by the Spirit” to go to the Temple that day. Still today the Holy Spirit works through common means:
- the water and Word of Holy Baptism,
- the spoken, written and sung Word of God; spoken by parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, friends, family, etc.
- the common bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
Also, note that Simeon was in the place where Jesus was present – “moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” (v.27) Jesus’ presence is with us in our devotional times and in our prayer times; as well as our times of public worship and Bible Study. WHAT IF Simeon had decided NOT to come to the Temple that day? Oh, what blessings we miss when we spend no time in God’s Word or miss out on the public gathering of believers in worship!
“Bulletin bloopers” – unintentional misprints – are humorous and at times instructive. A number of years ago a church’s bulletin read: “Worship Service at 9 AM – Prayer and Silent Medication” (they meant “meditation”).
Maybe not such a bad announcement: God, the Holy Spirit works in many ways throughout our worship service to give us the “medication” for “sin-sick and battered lives.” Maybe it’s already in the opening hymn – a special phrase or verse that speaks to our pressing need. Maybe it’s in the “healing words” of the Absolution (especially for special sins that particularly trouble us.) Or in the Scripture readings, the sermon, another hymn, or some other part of the liturgy or service. And certainly, the Lord’s Supper – WHAT A PRIVILEGE to receive this GIFT of Jesus’ true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins EACH TIME IT’S OFFERED!
And thirdly, note that Simeon “took Jesus in his arms.” When Simeon did it, Jesus was a baby, 40 days old. We TAKE Jesus who is “The Word become flesh” (John 1) – when we take His Word, the Bible and read, study, listen and learn from it; when we sing the liturgy that comes directly from Holy Scripture, and when Jesus invites: “Take eat, this IS My Body… Take drink, this IS My blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
After Simeon had seen and held Jesus, he broke out in the song we still sing: “Lord, now You let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.” (v.29-32) Depart in peace” is the dismissal at the Lord’s Supper: “may this strengthen and preserve you in the true faith until life everlasting. Depart in peace.” It is also the closing words of the Benediction that sends us back out into the world after “holding Jesus” – receiving His life-strengthening Word and Sacrament: “…the Lord lift up His countenance (face) upon you, and give you peace.”
“Peace” with God, “peace” in whatever circumstances comes our way, as long as we live them with Jesus. “Peace” during the “easy times” of life / “peace” during the “hard times” of life / and especially “peace” at the time of death. For, “it had been revealed to (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (v.26) What blessed comfort to know that we (and our loved ones) are “at peace” with God – both in life and in death!
But some people try to live without this blessed peace of salvation through Jesus because their selfish nature has blinded them to this Blessed Hope. The Apostle Paul wrote: “I pray… that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians1:18)
The peace of Christ Jesus doesn’t simply come TO us. It is meant to go THROUGH us! Having seen and received Jesus, we are changed people! I’m certain that Simeon was “never the same again.” He left the Temple having “seen and held” Jesus! Think of how Simeon MUST have shared this with everyone he met! God’s peace and presence in us moves us to be positive witnesses. For Jesus came for “all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles; and for glory to God’s people, Israel”! No one is left out!
May God, the Holy Spirit, so fill us; enlighten us; empower us – as He did to Simeon – that we not only receive God’s peace but that God’s peace go THROUGH us – to our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers – this week and always. Amen.
You are invited and encouraged to join us for worship this New Year’s Eve (7 PM Communion) – to “hold Jesus” and receive His precious blessings – as well as every weekend in the New Year.