Luke 2:29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;"
If advent is a time of preparation, one might also look at it as a journey. Well, almostÖ on a journey they are signposts that tell you where you are, how far youíve come, and how far there is yet to go. The sign post of Advent might tell us that we are now to the 3rd week, but some how it is harder to see how far weíve come, and how far there is yet to go. You can look on the calendar, you can count the days, you can even count all the things that are yet to be done -- but this rarely gives comfort and hope.
In a way it is kind of funny, for when we read the Christmas Story, often we would like to believe, that if we had been there, we would have been ready and waiting for the coming Savior. Whatís funny? We know each year when Christmas is coming, and each year preparations start earlier and earlier, and each year, at the last minute, we are convinced that we wonít ever get it all done. You know what, ready or not, Christmas comes. It comes not because we are prepared, if anything it comes in spite of our preparations. You see Christmas comes because we need the gift that God at Christmas brings to us. Each year we keep trying to save ourselves, and each year we need Christmas to come to rescue us from all those things which we had planned, but didnít turn out as we expected.
Why donít all these things turn out as we expect? One unifying principal can be seen: We start out on a journey, and make a good beginning, but as we go along the way, we loose sight of the destination. For example, if you are one the way to Christmas - what is the one thing of central importance? Presents? Cards? Tree? Lights? Decorations? Parties? All of these are fine, but they are not at the heart of Christmas, Christ is at the heart of Christmas, and that is usually the first thing we loose sight of. All the other things have a role to play, but their role is to point to Christ, and the gift of salvation which comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
And thatís why Simeonís Song, the Benedictus, is our focus this night. Simeon was an old man. All his life he had been on the journey we call faith. In his journey he was looking for something called the "consolation of Israel" - which is another way of speaking of forgiveness of sins, and peace with God, and everlasting life.
You see we all know that the end of the journey, life, is one thing, death. Death is a very frightening thing. You look and see what you by your sins deserve. You know you are going to meet the Lord God Almighty as Ruler and Judge. And if all God sees is sin, well, is it any wonder that so many people are afraid of death? Who looks forward to being punished?
But long ago when sin first came upon the earth, God promised to send a savior, to free us from sin, to free us from our earned punishment, and to give us everlasting life. Salvation is the forgiveness of all our sins. Salvation is the payment of all our debts. Salvation is that death is not the end, because a new and everlasting life is ours. These are the things Simeon had learned from the Old Testament, and he was waiting for God to make all these things happen. Remember Simeon had already begun by faith. And by faith he headed a message from God and came to the temple just as baby Jesus was being brought to the temple. And when he saw that baby, he knew that this was the Promised Savior, and that the hope of his life, was happening before his eyes. The long awaited salvation was not in progress.
Simeon did not need to know about Jesus suffering and death for his sins and ours. In that baby, the details were irrelevant, the important thing was that God was at work, and a great miracle was unfolding before his eyes. God promised, and God was keeping his promise.
What did that mean? First, it meant that Simeon was now not afraid of death, He trusted that the Savior would obtain for him forgiveness, and would open for him the gates of heaven. He trusted that the grave was not the end, but he knew that God had promised everlasting life to the faithful, not because of faith, but because of the Christ, the savior. What is faith? It hold the promise of God, it keeps it close to the heart, and it keeps our eyes -- not on the things we have to do -- but on the destination, the upward call of God which is ours in Jesus Christ.
Why do we continue to sing his song? First it is good news for us. We need to remember the gracious promise of God. We need to remember our true destination. But the second reason is that this is not just good news for us, for the promise of God is for all people, it is good news to share. And so we continue to sing, until all mankind knows of the salvation that God has wrought in Jesus Christ our Lord.