Presentation of Our Lord—Year A—February 2, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
Forty days after the birth of Christ we mark the day Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple in accordance with Jewish law. There, a prophetess named Anna began to speak of the redemption of Israel when she saw the young child. Simeon also greeted Mary and Joseph. He responded to the presence of the Savior of the world in this child with the words of the Nunc dimittis…
Lord now you let your servant go in peace
your word has been fulfilled,
I have seen the salvation
Which you have prepared in the light of every nation
I light to reveal you to the nations
I love the fact that Simeon breaks out in song on sight of Jesus. Christ is still a baby, so it is not that he has a reputation that has already spread around the country, and he can not declare himself the Son of God. But nonetheless, Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting so long for a glimpse of hope.
It is definitely a bit different (since we do not see the baby Jesus), but we too get a glimpse of hope, a foretaste of the feast to come. We gather around the table, see Jesus in the bread and wine, and in the community gathered.
And then what do we do…we break out in song…whether it is as we prepare to receive, contemplate upon returning, and then we also break out into song. Normally we sing, “Thank the Lord…,” but the other option in our hymnal is Simeon’s Song “Now Lord…”
Just like with Anna and Simeon, the world does not suddenly become perfect on sight of Christ. But that doesn’t not keep them and it should not keep us from singing. We have heard the promises over and over, and of course sometimes we forget them or trust them less than wholly, but they never change. God’s grace, embodied in Jesus, is our salvation. It is because the promise has been made by God that “each little part of the salvation is sufficient and great enough.”
We do not just enjoy God’s saving and transformative power on the last day. It is an ongoing thing. We can experience God’s kingdom in breaking now. You might say we know more than Simeon and Anna, since we know about his adult ministry and resurrection, but the story is not yet over…the story is still unfolding. And as we watch it unfold, glimpsing bits of the promise come true here and there, we sing.
But we do not only sing Simeon’s song after communion. The Nunc Dimittis is also the appointed canticle for Compline, Night Prayer, the prayer service for right before bed. Simeon and Anna praised God at the end of their lives; we do the same at the end of our days. As if to say…I have seen a glimpse of Christ’s saving and redemptive power today, so I will be at peace if I die while I sleep. It kind of sounds like the child’s prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.
So these servants of God see Jesus, break out into song, but they don’t stop there. Their songs and words proceed to spread the gospel, and not just to those who might have not yet heard. Did you catch that Simeon preaches to Mary? The shepherds also preached to Mary when they come to visit the Baby Jesus in the manger. If this isn’t enough proof that God can work through us all…young and old, rich or poor, respectable or outcast, articulate or stutterer…I don’t know what is. God’s salvation is for us all equally. We all can experience the glimpses. We all can break out in song or praise God in other ways, whatever fits our gifts and expresses our joy!
When you experience the salvation of God in such a profound way, how else would you respond, than with complete and utter joy?