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Content to Depart in Peace (First Sunday after Christmas)

[Luke 2:25-32] Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Content to Depart in Peace

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” Content to depart this life. Unattached? Or attached to something greater? “You are letting your servant depart.” “To depart and be with Christ is far better” [Philippians 1:23] – this conviction comes in the maturity of faith. But your heart is very attached to this world and life. It does not desire to depart and be with Christ.

“Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart”, we sang a minute ago. A beautiful hymn which shows us the love for God to which our hearts ought to aspire. This hymn shows me what I ought to have – and know to be beautiful – but fail to have, and even fail to truly want to have – a love for God with all my heart.

“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart; I pray Thee ne'er from me depart, With tender mercies cheer me. Earth has no pleasure I would share, Yea, heaven itself were void and bare If Thou, Lord, wert not near me” – this is the very heart of the man Simeon – a man devoted to service in the Temple, yet not even attached to the Temple.

Simeon – the man in today’s Gospel - only sought to see the Lord’s Christ. And now that He has the Lord’s Christ, Simeon is done – he wants nothing more. He is now at peace, content, to be done - to depart this life. “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.”

We know almost nothing else about this man Simeon. He must have spoken his words in the court of women in the Temple, because both Mary and, afterward, the prophetess Anna are present. Joseph and Mary had brought the newborn Christ-child into the Temple.

Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the Law” [Galatians 4:4]. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus into the Temple to present Him, as their first-born, to the Lord and to offer the sacrifice required by God’s Law, the Law of Moses.

This is when Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, meets them. Simeon was a man, righteous and devout, who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” – consolation, comfort. Simeon was waiting for the promise in Isaiah 40:1-2 to be fulfilled – that the people of Israel would receive “comfort, comfort”, that the warfare of their life would finally be ended, and that their iniquity would be finally pardoned.

When Simeon sees the child Jesus, he takes Jesus up into his arms, looks at Him, and says, “Now my eyes have seen God’s salvation – God’s salvation for Israel and for the gentiles.” “Now my comfort, my consolation, is here, in this Child.” “Now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.” Simeon was cradling in his arms all that he ever needed or wanted.

“My eyes have seen Your salvation”. Simeon knew what this Child in his arms would grow to do. Simeon, in the Holy Spirit, tells Mary, the Child’s mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also).” [Luke 2:34-35]

With these words, Simeon foretells that this Child will die a painful death for His people – a death that would pierce His mother’s soul. The sign that would be opposed is the sign of this Child’s cross – “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” [1 Corinthians 1:23].

Simeon alludes to this Christ-child’s death and resurrection. The death and resurrection – the falling and the rising - of this Child will be for “the falling and rising of many” [Luke 2:34].

This Christ-child, Jesus, born on Christmas morning, and set in Simeon’s arms today, is not just a sweet child – not just a precious sight to behold – but a real Savior who has done something for you at great cost to Himself. Love for the precious and sweet is only sentimentality, and it wanes. Real love for this Child comes from the knowledge of what this Child has done for you.

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law [Galatians 4:4-5]. Life in this world is life under the curse of the Law, life under God’s displeasure because of sin – “For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.” [Psalm 90:9]. “Through the Law – God’s Law – comes knowledge of sin”, so that “the whole world may be held accountable to God” [Romans 3:19-20].

This Child in Simeon’s arms, “born of a woman, born under the Law”, is alone without sin. He only is without sin, yet He will grow to manhood to bear the sin of the world. This Child, who alone is holy, will die on His day under God’s wrath for your sin and for Simeon’s sin. This Child in Simeon’s arms, who alone is Blessèd, will die under the curse of the Law on a cross. Those once rightly cursed are now blessed in Him.

Simeon holds in his arms the one who will die and rise for him.

Attached to life in this world, or are you attached to this Child who died for you? Can you depart in peace? To what is your heart most tied?

“To depart and be with Christ is far better” [Philippians 1:23]. “We love because He first loved us” [1 John 4:19]. We cannot muster up a love for our Lord that is from all our heart. But we can look at what our Lord, this Child, has done for us and for those for whom we live concerned. He is their hope alone too.

And we can look at what a great thing God the Father gave for us in giving up His Child to be our Savior – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation – to be the sacrifice that appeases wrath - for our sins.” [1 John 4:10]. We love Him because He so loved us.

By this Child’s sacrifice, we depart this life in peace instead of under wrath.

May you and I now see this Child and our lives with eyes like Simeon’s. By this Christ-child’s great love for you – in all that He has grown to do – in all that God gave – you will find love for God so that you too can be content to depart in peace, firmly believing that to be with Christ is indeed far better. Amen.

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