“You may now kiss the bride.” Those are familiar words to many of us. You will often hear them spoken at the end of a wedding. And if you think about it, in a setting like this, in a church, there are many phrases that we hear Sunday after Sunday, over and over again. And there are many phrases and statements that you yourself speak or sing Sunday after Sunday, over and over again. Sometimes, because we repeat these phrases, we don’t always stop and think about what we are actually saying. For instance, did you know that in one of the songs we often sing, and will sing today even, we confess that we may now go and die in peace? Do you know in which liturgical song we sing those words? Maybe a hint will help you, this morning we are going to talk about a guy named Simeon.
Let’s talk about Simeon. Simeon is one of two new people that Luke introduces to us today, the other person is Anna, and we will get to her in a little bit as we meet Simeon first. Now, we don’t know much about Simeon. We often view him as being an older man. Luke describes him as being righteous and devout. Perhaps, what is most interesting about Simeon though is that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” and had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the “Lord’s Christ,” or Jesus. So, Simeon has this promise, this promise that he won’t close his eyes in death until his eyes gaze upon the Savior who was to come, and he is waiting; waiting for this coming moment. Waiting as Luke says, “for the consolation of Israel.” Then one day, as Luke tells us, Simeon, “moved by the Spirit, went into the temple courts.” I want to stop there though because now we need to talk about Anna. Anna was waiting too…
Luke tells us that Anna “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Anna’s waiting was a little different then Simeon’s. Simeon’s waiting was an excited waiting because of God’s amazing promise. Anna’s waiting, however, was a heartbroken waiting. In one short and seemingly easy to ignore sentence Luke captures a whole world of heartbreak. Luke tells us that Anna had been married for seven years (plenty of time to grow incredibly close to another human), but then her husband died. I don’t think you need to have seven years of marriage under your belt to know how devastating that would have been for Anna, to understand, at least a little bit, the heartbreak she felt.
Driven by that incredible heartbreak Anna grabbed hold of the only thing she had left… her God. She grabbed on and didn’t let go. For probably decades (Luke tells us she is 84), she had made the Temple her home because death had taken her other home from her. Anna was waiting too…Every night, as she fell asleep in bed alone, she felt the inescapable, heartbreaking consequences of sin.
Are we starting to get a sense of these two people, Simeon and Anna? They’re people like us. Compare yourself to Simeon. Are we not waiting too? Not for the newborn Christ, but for the Savior to come! Every single time you experience the brokenness of life, every single time you get the common cold, every time you get a tooth ache, every time you’ve watched someone you love get sick and die, every time you’ve woken up and felt the living decay of your body as you get older and older you have a promise that one day you will meet someone who will fix all of this. You will meet your Savior. But for now, like Simeon, we find joy in that child…and we know…Jesus came once; he will come again. Now compare yourself to Anna.
Some of you are already all too familiar with that heartbroken waiting of Anna, you’ve experienced horrible loss in your life…even if you haven’t, you know it’s coming, don’t you? This is why Anna held on to God. Only God could bring her from the edge of despair to a hope through a Savior. As it is, without Jesus, even the best things in life (like marriage) are only going to bring incredible despair as sin and death rip them from us one by one. But with Jesus…despair turns to hope because this is why he came. So, you see it? Simeon and Anna are a reflection of us, a picture of sinners waiting for hope to enter their lives. And on this particular day, for Simeon and Anna, their wait came to an end as hope was carried in.
We go to that moment. Mary and Joseph walk into the temple with baby Jesus. They don’t expect anyone to know who they are or who their child is, but then they’re stopped. A kindly old man pauses in front of them – You know it’s interesting that Luke doesn’t record a conversation between Simeon and Jesus’ parents, no, all Luke writes is that Simeon just took him, took Jesus, in his arms. Can you imagine what that would have felt like – with trembling arms to reach out and hold the Savior of the world in your hands? This was what he had been waiting for. And then there was Anna…
Can you imagine being in Anna’s shoes and what it would have been like to look up from your heartache and to see Jesus? That heartbroken woman was the exact reason that baby had been born. He was given the name Jesus for people just like Anna – Jesus a name that means the Lord saves. Can you imagine how that felt? It’s no wonder she ran off to tell everyone she knew.
And, this next point I think is key. Look what Simeon and Anna received that day. Simeon wasn’t suddenly set free from his daily routines, the troubles of life, the hardship…And Anna didn’t miraculously recover from her heart brokenness. In this story, we don’t see Anna and Simeon suddenly with hands and hearts empty of all their troubles – a perfect, happy little life. And if that’s what we expect, that somehow faith in Jesus will give us a heaven on earth – that our troubles will forever be gone – well, be prepared to be disappointed. Because that’s not what Anna and Simeon found in the temple that day. No, in their hands and in their hearts, they were gifted with not just some temporary relief and temporary joy, rather their hands and their hearts were filled with Jesus. They held and saw the one person who could and did remove the sin that causes all our troubles and a death that would have brought us all to hell’s door. No wonder Simeon burst into song!
Here is what he sang: “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 sight of all nations.” What Simeon said in that moment was that his life was complete, that death was his friend, that God kept his promise, that he stared into the face of salvation and felt the warm light of glory on his face. The wonder in this moment is that when Simeon sang all of this, he was looking at a baby. This was Simeon’s gift – to gaze at an infant and to see far more. And for Anna it was the same. But this gift wasn’t just given to them, God has also given it to you.
You peered into that manger just a few days ago and by faith you saw more than just a baby, you saw your future. You saw the end of heartbreak. The end of despair. The end of sickness. The end of all hurt, and pain, and hardship. There in the manger you saw the end of sin, but best of all the end of a death that would have left you forever separated from your God. And so now like Simeon we can sing, “Sovereign Lord, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes – my own eyes – have seen your salvation.” We have seen the Savior, we know him by name, and even better he knows you by name. And, one day, as he did for Simeon and Anna long ago, the Lord will dismiss you from this life in peace, and he will bring you home, and your wait…will be over.
So, remember then this moment. A moment that was forever carried in the hearts of Simeon and Anna. The moment that God gave you freedom from death, the moment he gave you a new life to live here, and someday forever in eternity. Remember this moment every time you sing Simeon’s song in a worship service – and we will sing it today, many us after tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. And, maybe take one more look then in that manger at that young child so meek and mild…this is your Savior. Know what he means to you. That now, when your time comes, you may die in peace, for your eyes have seen Jesus. Amen.