My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation
Scripture: Luke 2:22-40
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about the year we have just endured. I share words of wisdom forwarded to me this week by a dear friend to provide some closure.
Here are some things to consider as we close the door on 2020:
1. The dumbest thing I bought this year was a 2020 planner.
2. 2019: Stay away from negative people. 2020: Stay away from positive people, as in Covid positive.
3. The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
4. This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. When I got home I told my dog. We laughed a lot.
5. Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
6. I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!
7. I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
8. I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
9. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller wearing a mask & ask for money.
Have a Happy and Safe New Year! And thanks, Peggie Jo.
In 2007 I had not heard the term Bucket List. If you would have asked me what it was, I would probably have asked you which type. I worked in a Sherwin Williams paint store all though high school. I sold buckets – usually filled with paint but sometimes empty. We had a list of buckets. Would that be a one gallon? Five gallons? Plastic bucket – metal? I would have concretely answered the question in terms of the object – a bucket.
And then I saw the movie, The Bucket List, in which Billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) are complete strangers who sort of crash into each other. As luck would have it, they find themselves in the same hospital room. They learn that although they have two very different lives, they do share two things in common: a need to come to terms with who they are and what they have done with their lives, and a desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die. Against their doctor's advice, the men leave the hospital and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. They go to fulfill their Bucket Lists, or things they want to do before they die.
Today we learn of the bucket lists of two wonderful, devout Jewish people as they witness what is, for at least one of them, the last item on their earthly Bucket Lists. We first are presented with Simeon, who we are told was guided by the Holy Spirit to attend the Temple on the day in which Jesus was brought to fulfill a mandate of the law.
Our Gospel story in Luke is full of important Jewish tradition and ritual. And these observances overlap in a miraculous way. As we heard, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple when he was eight days old, they were enacting a ritual that was done by every Jewish family with a new baby boy. It was the most ordinary tradition--the presentation of a first-born child to God. The lesson teaches us, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”, and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Joseph and Mary come to do that which was standard and expected in their culture.
But a miraculous convergence is happening. Prophecy is about to be fulfilled. A witness is about to occur. As Mary and Joseph arrive to present Jesus, they are met by two elderly people – Anna and Simeon.
Anna and Simeon had spent so much of their long lives in the temple. It is certain that they had seen perhaps hundreds of babies come and go, yet they recognized Jesus as the Messiah and praised God. As one commentator put it, “All the other characters in the biblical Christmas stories (Joseph, Mary, the Magi, the shepherds) have signs and angels to point the way toward God’s presence on earth. Anna and Simeon just knew it through the stirring of their hearts by the Holy Spirit. They were waiting for this day.” In other word, they were waiting for Jesus to show up.
How strange it may have been for them to have the Messiah revealed to them. It was promised to Simeon by God. God told him he would see the Messiah, the Christ, the one who would bring salvation. I imagine that Simeon lived long days, and years, and then decades. He lived in hope with trust. He held expectation and anticipation. And as each day came to him, I think he wondered and asked God, “Is this the day? Will I see your salvation and the fulfillment of your promise?”
I read in the story the presence of doubt. Of wondering if he was crazy, delusional, got it wrong. Haven’t we lived in those places? Especially in these last 10 months? So much is strange and challenging and wrong. Haven’t you wondered how and when we will turn this journey around and find restoration, health, unity and peace? We have waited for something to happen. We have stood in that place of perplexity. I have talked to members and friends who have asked whether we can believe in a future, God’s future, or if we should just give in to despairing and hopelessness.
And then a scruffy, poor couple shows up at the temple with a baby, and everything changes.
And what worked? Well, simple. Simeon just kept showing up. He remained attentive and he continued to trust God. He rekindled hope when he had to. He did this by showing up. And the scriptures record his prayer of thanksgiving, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon showed up and God showed him God’s salvation. He acknowledges that God has fulfilled the promise of seeing the Savior – one who would bring light to the Gentiles and glory to the People of Israel. Holding Jesus, he knew that the last goal on his Bucket List was checked off.
Anna shows up. This eighty-seven-year-old widow and prophetess is said to have never left the Temple but stayed to attend to worship of God. In the great Temple in Jerusalem, there were actually spaces, not quite rooms, but places for those who attended to God with their lives might stay. She lived a life of fasting and prayer. And because she showed up, she, too, as Simeon, recognized the Messiah in the infant Jesus. Her response is twofold – she praises God for the revelation, and she spreads the word of God’s redemption to all who were around her.
This week we begin the season of revelation. Wednesday is Epiphany. In Christianity this day is to recognize the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ, as well as the Baptism of Jesus, which came later and is seen as the beginning of the ministry of the Messiah. In both events, we recognize that God is revealing the divine presence with us, to us and for us. After centuries of waiting, God’s plan is shown as Jesus shows up.
I wonder if I have the spirit of Anna and Simeon? I want to be more like them. I want to be tuned in to what God is doing so that when God enters the room quietly, I am aware of God’s presence. Anna and Simeon followed the prompting and prodding of the Holy Spirit so many times. They surrendered to the will of God and kept showing up waiting for the day that Jesus shows up. They recognized the child. Sometimes I wonder if I am aware of all of the times that Jesus is present in holy moments. I can’t help but wonder when Jesus shows up, will I recognize him?
As we come in a few moments to the Communion Table, we again participate in our part of showing up. Jesus asked us to do this in remembrance of Him. We eat and drink salvation and ingest the living presence of Christ into our very being. We gather, just as Anna and Simeon did, and the Salvation of God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
And now we start a new year. Showing up will mean that we will be open to the ways in which God will journey with us in all of our days to come. Jesus will be with us in our everyday lives. And I pray that in these moments we will praise God with Anna, declaring God’s living redemption, and say with Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.”