Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Second Sunday after Epiphany (Epiphany 2)

John 2:1-11; Romans 12:6-16; Exodus 33:12-23

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Back in New York, whenever I would speak of God’s institution of Marriage, I had this one parishioner who would say, “Pastor, God may have created the institution of marriage, but who wants to live in an institution?” Now, that man was kidding, sort of. Nevertheless, it is a sad reality today that Holy Matrimony, God’s institution of marriage, is too often spoken of in contempt and with derision, has been redefined into utter meaninglessness, and has become the butt of too many a sarcastic joke. God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, before man’s fall into sin, when He made a woman to join the man by his side, from which she was taken, and joined them in a one-flesh union. God blessed them that they should be fruitful and multiply and fill, subdue, and rule over the earth. That is God’s institution of marriage, which God Himself proclaimed to be, not just good, but very good.
Martin Luther considered marriage to be one of Three Estates or Hierarchies: The home (marriage and family), the Church, and the state (civil government). All three consist of rulers and the ruled – parents and children in the home, pastors and parishioners in the Church, magistrates and citizens in the civil government – each an intrinsic part of a divine order through which God provides and cares for His people, and God’s people provide for and care for each other and glorify Him. Closely related to the doctrine of the Three Estates is the Two Kingdoms Doctrine through which God rules, protects, and cares for His people through the Kingdom of Grace (or the Kingdom of the Right), the Church, and the Kingdom of Power (or the Kingdom of the Left), the civil government. The point being this, the lifelong marriage of one man and one woman, blessed with fruitfulness in the bearing, raising, and training of children, is the foundation of societal structure and order and civil government, and marriage is itself a reflection of the divine structure and order of the Holy Trinity so that, through marriage, we are blessed with a glimpse, albeit a glimpse darkened by our sin and idolatry, of God Himself and what it means to truly love selflessly and sacrificially.
Marriage is created and instituted by God that we might know Him and learn to love and serve like Him. Through marriage, we are blessed to participate in God’s ongoing creative activity by bringing forth new life, conceived and born out of love for God, for each other, and for the new life brought forth as good fruit from the vine. Such love is truly and only love when each spouse humbles themselves and selflessly and sacrificially gives of themselves for the sake of the other to the glory of God. Such love St. Paul says is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Such love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Such love never fails. Only with such love can two individuals, so different, so distinct and unique, possibly become one flesh. There is no equation in which one plus one equals one except in Holy Marriage as it was instituted by God in creation. Such unity is the fruit of love, selfless and sacrificial love, the love of God for His Son, for humanity, and for you. Truly, there is no other.
And thus, Jesus’ first recorded miracle occurred within the context of a marriage. Even as God created and instituted marriage in the beginning, so He Himself is present with and abides within the one-flesh unions of those He joins together in Holy Marriage. There are few things more common and ordinary than a wedding. Indeed, Jesus Himself described the ordinary, common, day to day life of those people who were destroyed in the flood saying, “people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark.” Marriage and weddings are common, normal, and routine. Nevertheless, our Lord Jesus attended and participated in a wedding, and likely several others, because He is fully human, and because He is Emmanuel, God with us, as one of us, in all the things it means to be human. Furthermore, God Himself created and instituted marriage, and He blesses it with His presence and with fruitfulness. There is nothing shameful or undesirable about marriage – that is a modern idea – but marriage is sacred and holy in God’s sight, for it is of Him and from Him and has His blessing.
The first chapter of John’s Gospel abounds with creation themes: The Word of God, light and darkness, water, the descent of the Holy Spirit, etc. Some exegetes believe that John’s Gospel is a sort of catechism and that he begins by recounting the six days of creation. In that respect, “on the third day” in chapter two, verse one, would correspond to the sixth day of creation, the day in which God created Adam and Eve and joined them in the one-flesh union of holy marriage, blessing them that they should be fruitful and multiply. That Jesus’ first miracle occurs at a wedding points to the reason He has come: To restore fallen humanity to a right relationship with God by fulfilling God’s Law and suffering the death His creatures rightly merited by their disobedience and rebellion, death on the cross.
Now, a first century Jewish wedding feast would have lasted seven days. The families of the bride and groom were expected to provide food and drink, and possibly lodging, for all of their guests throughout the seven days. The fact that they had run out of wine early in the feast would have been a horrifying embarrassment for the families, and for the bride and groom as their new life together was just beginning. Mary, Jesus’ mother, told Him of their dilemma. Jesus answered her saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, the English translation makes this sound almost rude, but it truly was not, but only the common manner of speaking at the time. The important thing was not how Jesus addressed His mother, but the fact that His hour had not yet come. Jesus’ hour was the hour of His Passion, His suffering and death. It was but the beginning of His ministry, and He had many things to do and teach before His passion. Still, He did help, and He did it in such a way as to not attract the attention of most to Himself, but only His disciples and a few servants.
Jesus commanded the servants to fill six stone water jars to the brim with fresh water. The stone jars were there for the Jewish purification rights. They stood as a rock-solid, immovable, symbol of the Law of God. For, because of their sin, all the people were unclean and were thus unable to participate in the wedding or the feast until they had ceremonially washed themselves according to the Law. They could not enter into the holy presence of God without first being cleansed. That Jesus had the jars filled to the brim points to the fulfilling of the Law of God that Jesus would accomplish by His obedience unto death. Then Jesus commanded a servant to draw some of the water and bring it to the master of the feast. The servant did as Jesus directed, and, unbeknownst to all, as he did, the water was made to be wine. When the master tasted it He praised the bridegroom saying, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” The wedding couple and their families, who were at dire risk of being humiliated, embarrassed, and disgraced, were instead praised by all. Jesus has turned their sorrow and despair into wonderful joy, laughter, and celebration. And, the only people who knew that He had done anything at all were Mary, His mother, His disciples, and a few servants. Everyone else praised and glorified the wedding family for their gracious hospitality. “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”
God instituted marriage that we might know and love Him and bear forth His fruits of love by knowing and loving another man or woman, by selflessly and sacrificially giving ourselves to each other, and by selflessly and sacrificially bearing the good fruit of new life to the glory of God. We do not know how long the first marriage of our First Parents in the Garden of Eden lasted before they succumbed to the serpent’s temptations and sinned, but it probably wasn’t long. Their sin truly consisted of selfishness and self-centeredness, the very opposite of love. Their desire was to have wisdom for themselves, to know good and evil by their own judgment (as opposed to God’s), and to be like god’s unto themselves. Not only was their love for God corrupted, but their love for each other was corrupted. Thus, when God questioned each of them, they each in turn blamed the other, and they even blamed God for their fall. By their own will and decision they fell from grace and became slaves of sin under the curse of the Law. Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana pointed towards who He was and what He would do to undo the curse and to restore God’s people to a right relationship with Him and with each other once again. He would fulfill the Law’s demands, hence the water jars for purification were filled to the brim. And, in exchange for the curse of the Law, which He would take upon Himself and die upon the cross, He would give the blessing of His Sonship with the Father, His innocence, righteousness, and life that cannot die.
God instituted marriage to show the kind of relationship He desires to have with you: A selfless and sacrificial relationship in which each spouse lays down his or her own life for the sake of the other and bears the fruit of love and life, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness. God doesn’t want to rule you, but He wants you to rule with Him. God wants to marry you. Jesus is your true Bridegroom, and you, His Church, are His Bride. And the Bridegroom invites you this day and every Lord’s Day to eat and drink in communion fellowship this foretaste of the great wedding feast yet to come in heaven that you may be filled to overflowing with His love. Love to fulfill all your needs to the very brim, and more to overflow in sheer abundance through your words and deeds of love to others to the glory of His holy Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (observed)

Matthew 3:13-17; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Isaiah 42:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In many ways, baptism is the most scandalous thing we do as Christians. It simply flies in the face of our vaunted reason and expectations concerning how things work. How can water do such great things? Don’t you have to believe first, and then be baptized? How can an infant believe? Baptism saves? It can’t be that easy, can it? What if a baptized person lives like a heathen? Is he still saved? Such questions beleaguer each of us from time to time. Our answers to such questions divide Christians throughout the world. Our answers to such questions may cause non-believers to mock and ridicule us, or write us off as crazy, out of touch, and irrelevant. To put it bluntly, baptism just doesn’t make much sense to us.
And yet, baptism makes perfect sense when it is understood as a gift of God’s grace. Baptism is 100% God’s work. Baptism is not something that you do, but it is something that God does for you, to you, and in you. Water is poured over your head. Words are spoken over the water, over you, and into you – creative words, performative words, effecting what they proclaim. You are the recipient of God’s gracious activity. He speaks the Words. He performs the baptism. He bestows His Holy Spirit. He forgives your sins.
So monergistic is Holy Baptism that infant baptism should be the standard for all Christians, for the baptism of an infant child is the supreme example displaying just who’s doing the work in the Sacrament – not the parents or the Godparents, not the pastor, not the child, not the congregation, but God alone does the work in Holy Baptism by His Holy Spirit through His spoken Word. That is why Jesus holds up a little child as the chief example of faith that receives the kingdom of heaven, even saying to His adult disciples that, unless they have faith like a little child, they shall not enter it. The infant child cannot choose or decide to be baptized, but she has to be brought to baptism by others. She does not earn, deserve, or merit baptism, but she is baptized nonetheless as the water is poured upon her and the Word is spoken over and into her. But, the infant does not understand anything, does not believe anything, cannot decide or choose anything, you protest? Precisely! That is precisely the point! Baptism is not your work, but God’s work. Baptism is not something that you do, but it is something that is done to you, for you, and in you. Baptism is gift, and it is grace – pure gift, pure grace. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!
“I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” That’s what John said when Jesus came to him to be baptized in the Jordan River. He was right, and Jesus didn’t correct him on the matter. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but John did, because baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, and of the two men standing by the river that day, only one of them was a sinner, and it wasn’t Jesus. In fact, everyone who came to the Jordan to be baptized by John was a sinner, and the one who baptized them was himself a sinner. Therefore, John was right; Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but John did. Indeed, everyone conceived and born of a human mother and father is conceived and born in sin, as King David confessed in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, for He was sinless, holy, and righteous, but we do, regardless of gender, race, status, or even age.
Nonetheless, Jesus submitted to be baptized. Jesus wanted to be baptized. The multitudes came to the Jordan to be baptized by John. They entered the water as unclean sinners; they emerged from the water as forgiven sinners and saints. Baptism marked a change of life for those people. Baptism was a washing away of their sins. Baptism was the drowning death and burial of their old way of living and the raising up of a new man. Baptism marked a change for Jesus as well. Though He entered the water sinless and holy, He emerged bearing the sins of the world, the sins of those baptized in the Jordan, John’s sins, your sins, and my sins too: He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. For, this is how He would fulfill all righteousness: He would take all humanity’s sin upon Himself, and He would suffer the due penalty for our sin in His flesh upon the cross. Jesus was born to die for you. Jesus was circumcised and named that He might die for you. And, Jesus was baptized that He might die for you.
And, because of this, God the Father was well pleased with His Son. He was already well pleased with His Son, but this is how the LORD reveals His righteousness – in being both just and the justifier of those who will believe and trust in Him. And so, when Jesus came up from the water, heaven was opened to Him as a man, the Holy Spirit descended and remained upon Him, and God the Father spoke from heaven proclaiming Him to be His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. God the Father was always well pleased with His Son, but He is also well pleased with His Son as a human man taking upon Himself all the sins of all humanity. In St. Mark’s Gospel, immediately following His baptism in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit literally threw Jesus into the wilderness to face temptation by the devil. Jesus was baptized for you, for thus was it fitting to fulfill all righteousness.
Jesus is, at once, the Son of God and the Lord’s Servant, and God Himself. Jesus is the selfless and sacrificial love of God incarnate for your life and for the life of the world. Willingly, out of selfless love and obedience for His Father, He set aside His glory and took up the form of a servant, even a man. As a man, He became obedient unto death, even death upon the cross. And, because of this, God the Father has bestowed upon Him the Name that is above all names, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When you were baptized, you were baptized into Jesus; you were baptized into Jesus’ Name. Jesus’ Name now marks you, seals you, names you, and claims you as His own. When God the Father looks at you, He beholds His Son in holiness and righteousness. His promise is upon you and in you: I will never leave you or forsake you, I am with you always, and nothing can separate you from My love in Jesus Christ. You were baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Holy Baptism you were clothed with Christ’s righteousness, a pure and holy garment that covers your sin. In baptism you have put on Christ, therefore God the Father can also say of you, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Do you see what amazing promises the Lord has attached to such humble, weak, and foolish means? God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, what is weak to shame the strong, what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. It is no surprise that baptism is scandalous. That is precisely what it is supposed to be! Your Lord would have you see the radical grace of Holy Baptism as His work alone, demanding, requiring absolutely nothing of you whatsoever, not even faith (!), for faith is given and created through Holy Baptism by the Holy Spirit, but that you receive it – and by that I mean simply that you do not reject and refuse it, but trust in it and cling to it for forgiveness, life, and salavtion. Your Lord chooses to baptize you, to forgive you, to give you faith and His kingdom in His Son. It is His choice, His work, and His gift alone. And, because Holy Baptism comes from outside of you, because it is not your work but the Lord’s, because it demands nothing of you and there is nothing you can do to earn, merit, or deserve it, Holy Baptism is the most comforting, encouraging, and refreshing gift you could ever receive! In fact, our Lord has baptized you that you may be confident in your faith and salvation in Jesus Christ and so resist the devil’s temptations and share your Lord’s gracious gifts with others to the glory of His Name. In your baptism, as in Jesus’ baptism, God the Father Speaks, the Holy Spirit is given, and God’s Son is named. All this is the LORD’s work, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
God has chosen humble, weak, and foolish things to shame the proud, the wise, and the strong. And, even now God has chosen foolish, sinful flesh and faltering speech, ordinary water, tasteless bread, and inexpensive wine to which He has attached His Word of Promise, that you may be forgiven anew, strengthened in faith, and equipped for every good work. Remember your baptism. Remember that you are clothed with Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sins. Remember that all this comes to you as a free and perfect gift, from outside of you, bearing not the corruption of your sin. Therefore you can receive it, you can trust it, and you can have peace with God, and you can have peace with man, just as the angels proclaimed at Jesus’ birth.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Our Lord

Luke 2:21; Galatians 3:23-29; Numbers 6:22-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight we ring in the New Year in the same way we ring in each new week, in the same way we should ring in each and every new day: In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. For, we believe and we confess that each new year is lived in God’s grace and mercy, that each new week is lived under His gracious providence and protection, and that each new day is a precious gift and fruit of His ongoing creative and sustaining activity.
In the Name – yes, there’s something very powerful and important about God’s Name. The first mention we have in the Scriptures concerning God’s Name is Exodus 3:14, when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Moses asked God for His Name so that he might tell the people of Israel who had spoken to Him. God replied saying, tell them “I AM has sent you.” Now, it is an understatement to say that there is a whole lot bound up in God’s Name. At the very least, God’s Name includes the Scriptural proclamation “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” That is to say, God is before all things, after all things, and fills and sustains all things. He is the source and sustainer of all things: “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” Yes, all of that is bound up in God’s Name.
That is the Name we invoke at the beginning of the Divine Service. That is the Name that was placed upon us in Holy Baptism. That is the Name that we invoke in the morning when we awake, and again in the evening when we go to sleep. That is the Name that was cut into the flesh of Jesus when He was eight days old according to the Law of Moses. Jesus received that Name as a covenant promise in His flesh so that He could die in the flesh upon the cross and breathe God’s Name upon us by His Holy Spirit thereafter.
God commanded Aaron and his sons to bless His people with His Name saying, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” God promised them, “So shall they put my Name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” The Benediction was a promise, a seal, and a covenant that God would keep and never break, for it was His Word, and it was Truth, and Life. Yet, it pointed forward to its fulfillment in Jesus. Like the Law of God, the Benediction was a “guardian,” as St. Paul puts it in the Epistle to the Galatians, “until Christ came.” As with the Law, Christ is its fulfillment, so does the Benediction’s power flow from Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. Jesus is God’s blessing upon His people, even as He is the Name that seals us in Holy Baptism unto the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day.
The apostles preached in Jesus’ Name. They proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name. Pastors continue to proclaim God’s forgiveness to you today in Jesus’ Name. Truly, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. At the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For those baptized into Jesus, you wear His Name and all that belongs to it. Jesus’ Name marks you and seals you in His forgiveness, life, and salvation, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Eight days after His birth in Bethlehem, the infant Jesus was circumcised according to the Law. It was then that He was given the Name Jesus, God Saves, as the angel Gabriel revealed to His mother Mary before He was conceived in the womb. Jesus is God’s salvation, in the flesh. His shedding of first blood as an infant pointed to the blood He would shed in fulfillment of the Law upon the cross as a man. In this way, God saved His people. All of this is in His Name.
And so, here we stand this evening at the close of another year of God’s grace. This past year we experienced many joys and many sorrows, just like the years before. In God’s providence, perhaps, as the years pass by, we tend to remember mostly the joys, whereas the sorrows become less memorable and identifiable, but they become the fabric of our lives. But, as we look back and remember, we can begin to see how God blessed us and kept us through it all; maybe we can even begin to see how He works all things for the good of those who love Him. In faith, we must confess that it is by God’s grace that we are here, that He has graciously provided us all that we need to sustain our bodies and lives. Therefore, we give Him thanks and praise Him. And, we respond to His love and faithfulness by bearing and sharing His love and faithfulness with others.
And, as we set ourselves to embark upon a new year, we confess that it will be a new year under God’s grace. No, we cannot know what this new year will hold in store for us, and, naturally, there is a little anxiety and trepidation mixed with excitement and hope. But, we do know this: God will bless and keep us in the Name of Jesus.
What’s in a name? In the Name of Jesus? Everything! Forgiveness, life, and salvation – for the new year, and for all eternity.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

The First Sunday after Christmas (The Feast of Purification of Mary and The Presentation of Our Lord)

Luke 2:22-40; Galatians 4:1-7; Isaiah 11:1-5

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The events following the birth of Jesus serve to demonstrate that He was born to fulfill the Law in our place. This evening, we will celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus when He was eight days old in fulfillment of the Law. This morning, we celebrate the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the temple in fulfillment of the Law. Accordingly, St. Luke makes reference to the Law of God three times in the first three verses of today’s Gospel, and two more times in the ensuing accounts of St. Simeon and St. Anna. Joseph and Mary were doing to and for Jesus what the Law required, but when they heard the words of Simeon and Anna, they marveled at the words that were spoken about their son.
Simeon is all but an antitype of Abraham. He is described as being “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Simeon’s faith is declared to him as righteousness, like Abraham’s, and, just like Abraham’s, it was Simeon’s faith that caused him to wait and to watch for God to fulfill His covenant promise. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had beheld the Lord’s Christ with his own eyes. Thus, when Joseph and Mary brought their newborn son into the temple to do for Him what was required by the Law, the Spirit guided St. Simeon to the temple that day as well. Then, receiving the Word of God made flesh into his own arms, Simeon proclaimed and confessed, “Yes, Lord, Your Word is fulfilled! Here I behold Your salvation with my own eyes. Now You may let me depart this life in peace, for You have kept Your covenant promise! For, here lies in my arms the deliverance and the consolation of Israel, and light for the Gentiles!” Simeon’s confession is akin to that of Abraham’s when he answered his son’s inquiry, “Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham answered, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb for a sacrifice, my son.” Yes, Simeon prophesied of the purpose and the fate of the boy-child Jesus whom he held in his arms, saying to His mother that, because of Him, “a sword will pierce through your own soul.” For, though He would bring peace with God for all men, He would be for “a sign that is opposed.”
Now, I love the fact that Joseph and Mary are said to have “marveled at what was said” about Jesus. Our Lord’s parents were faithful and pious believers in God’s most holy Word. They, like Simeon and Anna, were watching and waiting for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled as well. While angels had visited them both, and they believed with all their heart, soul, and mind, it is, however, absurd to conclude that they understood everything that was happening. No more do any of us understand the fullness of the counsel of God’s Word, His Will, and His Ways. Both Joseph and Mary pondered and treasured God’s Word and the mysteries that were being revealed to them in their hearts. Truly, this is what God desires of His children, that they keep His Word and Commandments, more precious and dear to them than their own lives or livelihoods. Jesus’ mother, Mary, gazed upon the child of her own flesh, who was also God’s own Son by the Holy Spirit, in profound love and awe. Jesus’ father, Joseph, protected Him fiercely so that no one and no thing would harm this gift of God before His time had come. And, still today, the Holy Family, both in image and in imagination, beckon the faithful to ponder and to receive the Christ-child, the Word of God made flesh, dwelling amongst us.
And, then there was Anna, the prophetess. St. Luke tells us that Anna was “advanced in years” and that she was a widow for seventy-seven years after the death of her husband to whom she was married seven years since she was a young virgin. She did not leave the temple day or night, which may indicate that she lived there, that a room was provided for her. At the presentation of Jesus, Anna gave thanks to God and spoke to all the faithful about Jesus. Now, what are we to make of her being designated as a prophetess? Not much, I have to think. For, Anna is the only woman called a prophetess in all the New Testament, and the Holy Spirit did not see fit to provide us the words she spoke, but only that she gave thanks to God and spoke to others about Jesus. There is no indication that she held a particular office of one kind or another, though we are told that she “worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day.” There is no doubt that she was a woman of great faith, piety, and devotion. Further, it is possible that the Holy Spirit granted her a revelation of who the Christ-child was and what He would do.
As it is, both Simeon and Anna stand straddling the Old and the New Testaments. For, though they lived during the birth and infancy of our Lord, they were not alive to witness His death and resurrection or the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. And so, Simeon and Anna fit best with the Old Testament saints and prophets culminating in John the Baptist. Whatever their role may have been, they served to point us to Christ, who He would be, and what He would do. Even after Jesus’ birth, it had been revealed to Simeon and Anna who Jesus was and what He would do in terms of the big picture, but not necessarily in all the fine details. By divine revelation, in their faith, Simeon and Anna could see that this child, Jesus, was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Moses, and to David. He came as their brother, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law. The joy of Simeon and Anna was the joy of the Law being fulfilled for us all! Indeed, rightly did Joseph and Mary marvel.
St. Luke concludes today’s Gospel saying, “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” They had done everything that the Law required, but, though it was necessary and had to be done, it was still not enough; man was still in sin and destined for death. The rest would have to be performed by Jesus alone. Jesus must now grow and learn as all boys do. Jesus must come of age and study under the rabbis. Jesus must be baptized with John’s baptism and face the devil in the wilderness. Jesus must obey the Law and keep the LORD’s Commandments perfectly, even under temptation, duress, and suffering, unto death. Jesus must lay down His life in humiliation, suffering, and death in your place, going to the cross, drinking the cup of God’s wrath against your sin to the bitter dregs, until it was finished. And He did.
There is a good reason that we sing Simeon’s song after receiving the Lord’s body and blood in the Holy Eucharist: For, we, too, have seen the salvation of our LORD. We, too, can now depart in peace. Therefore, let us, like Simeon and Anna, watch and wait for the Lord, hearing His Word and receiving His gifts. God has wonderfully created us, and in the incarnation of His Son has yet more wondrously restored our human nature. May we ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.