Joseph and Mary were faithful parents in raising Jesus. St. Luke writes, “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived” (Luke 2:21). By this means Jesus would become a child of Israel. God entered a covenant relationship with the child, which reveals that circumcision, though performed by a human, was God’s act.
Luke continues by telling us, “When the time of the purification according to the Law of Moses had taken place, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). One month after the first son was born, he was presented to the Lord. In this ceremony the parents made an offering, which symbolized buying back from God the child He had created.
Now let your mind go back to this day when Joseph and Mary were walking through the temple courts, and they met an elderly man named Simeon. Simeon was a righteous man who made his trip regularly to the temple. The Lord had promised him that he would not die until he had met the Messiah. On this day he felt led to the temple. It was then that Simeon met Jesus and His parents. Simeon took the babe in his arms and praised God saying,
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the light of all people.
A light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon had met the Christ and confessed to the Lord, “I am ready to die, for all is well.”
This was just one more experience for Joseph and Mary to ponder as God was revealing to them that Jesus was no ordinary child.
The words of Simeon are known as the Nunc Dimitis in the liturgy, which is used in some orders of worship. It has great meaning in my life for our congregation sang these words as a closing to our evening service each Sunday evening. It left a thought not to be taken lightly. We were beginning a new week. With Christ we could face the temptation of life and remain true to Him. If this were the last week on earth, we were ready to meet Him in death. Yes, the song placed this thought in my mind: Am I ready? It is this thought that I bring to you in the sermon today.
Simeon held the Christ; now the Christ holds us. In this relationship we can sing Fanny Crosby’s famous song, “Safe in the arms of Jesus.” With Him holding us, we can sing with St. Paul, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). I am ready to die. I may not want to go now, but if this is to be, then I am ready. What a joy to live with this assurance of salvation.
This is the basis of a question used in some of our evangelism programs that teach people how to share their faith with those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. The question is, “Have you come to this place in your spiritual life where you know for sure that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?” A few of them would say, “Yes, I trust Jesus as my Savior and Lord.” The majority would answer, “I hope so, but I don’t know if I have lived a good enough life.”
Old Simeon teaches that if we have met the Christ and trust Him as our Savior, we are ready to die, because we are on our way to heaven.
Simeon ministered to Mary and Joseph. They did not fully understand his worlds at the time, but as the years passed you can be sure that Jesus’ mother recalled what the old man said. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
When Mary heard the cruel remarks spoken by many to her son, or when she stood beneath His cross watching Him die, then she knew what Simeon meant when he said, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” On the other hand, some of Jesus’ promises also sounded familiar in her soul. Imagine when, on that Easter morning, she learned that He had been raised from the dead how she must have felt. Now it was all coming into focus. She had been the mother of God in the flesh. Surely she had found favor with God. I wonder if, at that point in her life, Mary might have borrowed that line from Simeon’s hymn, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.
When we ourselves are ready to meet Jesus, we have a message to bring to others. First it is with our children. Mary and Joseph are our teachers. You have brought your child to the baptismal font where God entered a covenant relationship with him or her. Now teach your child about the Lord Jesus Christ. Tell them specifically what He has done for you to make you ready to meet him. Then let it move on to others.
This is a good word for those of us who are older. Death draws nigh, and we discuss our illnesses and the afflictions that will ultimately bring the end of our life on earth. What comforting words you have to share with your loved ones, especially when you can tell them why you are ready. Sure, reminisce with them. Have fun with the memories. Then, when the conversation ends, let them know that your prayer is the prayer of Simeon: Lord, I am ready. You can come and get me anytime.
What a wonderful way to end the old year. What a peace to bring into the new year. All is well! Praise God!