Monday, January 1, 2024

His watch is over. . .

Sermon preached on the First Sunday after Christmas, Sunday, December 31, 2023.

     There comes a time when our turn on the great watch for Christ comes to an end.  Sometimes it comes with surprise.  Death steals away the rest of our lives and Christ steals that life from death.  We have no time to plan or prepare or for others to prepare.  We have all been there.  In our weeping and sorrow we wonder how death could come so quickly.  A heart attack or car accident or violence.  We are left with pieces, pieces of life, of dreams now broken, and of best laid plans undone.

    Sometimes it comes with great fanfare.  A long planned retirement, a gold watch, a dinner, a testament of words, and a celebration.  We have all been there too.  We have go to plenty of retirement celebrations – maybe even our own.  Our time on the watch is over and our place carefully handed over to another.  Even with plans and preparations, it seems to sneak up on us and we have to figure out what it all means.  Who are we now this part of our life is over and what will begin when we wake up tomorrow.

    Simeon gives us another picture.  He has stood watch in the household of God year after year.  It was the Lord’s promise that He will not die until he has seen the Lord’s Christ.  It might have been easy to go to the Temple and watch in the beginning.  But like everything, it must have gotten old.  Every face of a stranger that was once looked upon with great hope and expectation – is he the one? – eventually gives way to boredom and weariness.  Where is the Lord’s Christ and when will He come?  Israel had long ago stopped watching and stopped waiting and simply gotten along with life.  We hear it all the time.  Get over it.  Get on with life.  Live.

    But Simeon did not waver.  He was there every day.  Waiting upon the Lord’s timing.   Watching for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled.  Now he is old.  Some probably thought that Simeon had wasted his life away waiting on the Lord.  He should have retired from his place before death came and ended it.  Simeon did not pay attention either to the aches of age in his body or the weariness of wondering when the Lord would keep His Word.  He stayed His place.  And then it happened.  Into the Temple came a woman with a Son, forty days old, to present Him to the Lord and to receive purification after childbirth.  Simeon looked and the Spirit told him this was the One He has been waiting for and watching for all his life.

    At that moment, Simeon knew his watch was over.  He did not know or care how long he lived or what in life awaited him anymore.  He has seen enough.  He had seen the Lord’s Christ, the long promised Messiah.  He had held the Son of God in his arms.  He had blessed the Lord for this privilege – no matter how long he had waited or how weary the waiting and watching had become.  And then He sings:   Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled.
        My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people: A light to reveal You to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel.

    We have all been there too.  Every Sunday in the Divine Service.  We sing with Simeon the words of watching and waiting fulfilled.  But we did not cradle Jesus in our arms.  We cradled Him upon our lips and in our bodies in Holy Communion.  Every Sunday we sing with Simeon that our watch is over.  Some of us may die before we can gather again here in the Lord’s House.  Some of us may struggle under the weight of bad news or other loss.  Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  We do not know what will accompany our future after this, but whatever that is, it is nothing in comparison to what we experienced here, at this altar, in this Holy Communion.  Whether we are old and our days are nearing their end or young and not even counting those days, it does not matter.  We know who we are watching for and who we are waiting for.  Jesus, to bring to completion all that He began in us when He comes in His glory.  That is our end.

    Today is the last day of a calendar year.  It is a day in which we lament all that we regretted doing or saying or not doing or not saying.  It is a day in which we remember those who began the year with us and are now with the Lord.  It is a day when we face a future in which only one thing is certain.  The Lord keeps His promises.  The politics divide and Jesus unites.  The culture indulges and Jesus teaches self-control.  The world pursues aimless existence and Jesus gives us a place, a purpose, and a plan for our lives.  The world gets rid of evil by calling it good and gets rid of goodness by calling it evil but Jesus deals with our sin with His blood.  His blood first shed when He was circumcised into the covenant of Abraham as preview of the blood of the new and eternal covenant shed on the cross.  The world makes peace with death but Jesus kills death with His life stronger than death and strong enough to raise up those dead in trespasses and sin.  And so we learn in Jesus not to weep for what was anymore than to fear what might be.  Our watching and waiting are fulfilled once for all in Christ.

    The world will awaken tomorrow, many with a hangover and all of us with the same problems we had today and the same uncertainties we face today and the same lies that pass for truth as they have today.  But in Christ, knowing our watching and waiting are fulfilled in Christ, we meet the new day and the new month and the new week and the new year with confidence.  This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  And more than this, we meet the future as Simeon, echoing the words of his song not only in Church but in every day life.

        Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled.
        My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people: A light to reveal You to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel.

    We watch and wait no more for the Savior but we do for Him to come as King and Judge and to finish what He began, in us, and in all things.  This may not yet be the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.  Amen.

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