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+ + + In Nomine Jesu + + +

Please join me in prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Maybe something like this has happened to you: one of the presents I received on Christmas Day consisted of a Torchy’s gift card that was not in the envelope and that I am still waiting for, and another gift was several pieces of furniture that we ordered after Christmas Day that I am waiting to be delivered some time this week. (I am not only on the receiving end of such delayed gifts, but I myself have not yet sent a single Christmas card; my recipients usually have to wait until Epiphany or later!) Twelve months since last Christmas, “four” weeks of Advent preparation, and seven days into this Christmas season, the waiting should be over, shouldn’t it?

In today’s Gospel Reading, the Divinely‑inspired St. Luke uniquely tells us both that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel and that Anna spoke, presumably about the child Jesus (so NIV), to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel. Simeon and Anna are two miraculous, prophetic witnesses to Jesus as the Savior, the long-expected Lord Who forty days after His birth suddenly came the six miles up from Bethlehem to His Temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1; Lutheran Service Book 519). In today’s Old Testament Reading (Isaiah 61:10‑62:3), God spoke through Isaiah of His future salvation and righteousness’s bringing forth rejoicing and praise, and, in today’s Epistle Reading (Galatians 4:4-7), the Divinely-inspired St. Paul says that, 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. So, “The waiting is over, or is it?

How well do you and I wait for things? For the stoplight to change at the intersection of Houston Street and Henderson Boulevard? For delayed Christmas presents? For God’s healing of loved ones or of ourselves? That Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel and that Anna and others were waiting for the redemption of Israel reminds us of our need for consolation (or “comfort”) in our suffering and of our need for redemption from our sins, both of which needs boil down to our need for salvation (see Schmitz, TDNT 5:798-799, and Buchsel, TDNT 4:351). We not only may wait impatiently, ungratefully, and dictatorially (perhaps trying to conform God’s will to our wills instead of our wills to God’s will), but we also certainly sin in countless other ways, for we are sinful by nature, and we remain sinful by nature even after our conversion to faith. Holidays sometimes bring out the worst even in us Christians, impatience, ingratitude, and disappointment over unmet-expectations. And, apart from the holidays, we all know all the other sins that we keep returning to, despite our previous repentance over them and so despite what should be the best of intentions not to go back to them. Apart from repentance, any sin warrants our death here in time and our torment in hell for eternity.

Yet, God does not want anyone to perish, so He has always had a plan to save all people. Even before Simeon and Anna saw the Lord’s salvation with both their physical eyes and their eyes of faith, God forgave and so saved those who repented, those who turned away from their sin and trusted in the coming Savior. After the Savior had come, God similarly forgave and so saved those who repented, those who turned away from their sin and trusted in the Savior Who had come. So, when we, enabled by God, repent—turn away from our sin and trust in the Savior Who has come—then God forgives our sin. God forgives our sins related to waiting—impatience, ingratitude, and unrealistic expectations. God forgives all our sin, whatever our sin might be. God forgives our sin for Jesus’s sake.

Jesus Christ—the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary—is the long-awaited and only Savior of all people (Acts 4:10), whether the glory of the Jews or the light for the Gentiles. To see the Christ is to see the Lord’s salvation. Jesus Christ is the original Consoler (or “Comforter” [John 14:16 KJV, ASV]), and our only Redeemer. God the Father comforts us by leading us through the power of the Holy Spirit to His Son, and ultimately we are redeemed by God’s grace for the sake of that Son. The Holy Spirit led Simeon and Anna to recognize their salvation in the 40-day-old Jesus, Who no doubt looked quite unlike the “grand being” they described (Luther, AE 52:103). Jesus’s birth meant the Messiah had come and the waiting was over, or was it? Even Simeon and Anna in some sense still had to wait for His crucifixion and resurrection. The grown-up sweet and mild Jesus on the cross reconciled us to God, paid for all the ransom, and stayed God’s righteous anger (LSB 546). Like Joseph of Arimathea who “loaned” Jesus his tomb, all those waiting for the Kingdom of God find it in the Savior crucified, buried, and resurrected for us (Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:51 in KJV, NIV, NASB).

As the Holy Spirit led Simeon and Anna to recognize their salvation in the 40-day-old Jesus, so the Holy Spirit leads us to recognize our salvation in the crucified, buried, and resurrected Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads us through His Word read and preached, for His messengers, like Isaiah in today’s Old Testament Reading, will not keep silent or be quiet. The Holy Spirit leads us through His Word combined with water in Holy Baptism, a cleansing not from pregnancy but from sin, where, in the words of today’s Epistle Reading, God the Father sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts and thereby adopts us so that we are no longer slaves but children and so also heirs. He, Whom Simeon took up in his arms and blessed God, and Himself later took up little children in His arms to bless them (Mark 9:36; 10:16), at the baptismal font takes us up and blesses us. In the Temple courts, Simeon received Him and could depart in peace, and likewise, at this Rail, we can receive Him and depart in peace. For, from this Altar we eat bread that is the same Body of Christ and drink wine that is the same Blood of Christ that the Virgin Mary bore, that Simeon received, that was given and shed on the cross, and that is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity (Small Catechism, II:4). After so receiving Christ’s Body and Blood, we sing Simeon’s words—in one fashion according to Divine Service, Setting One, and this morning in another fashion in our Closing Hymn (LSB 938), as translated from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther’s 1524 text and sung to what possibly also is his tune.

When we have so received Christ’s Body and Blood, “The waiting is over, or is it?” Earlier I mentioned that Simeon and Anna recognized their salvation in the 40-day-old Jesus but in some sense still had to wait for His crucifixion and resurrection (as did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Himself after they eventually returned to Nazareth). They also even now are waiting for His final coming with glory to judge both the living and the dead, for the accompanying resurrection of everyone’s bodies, and for the life everlasting given to all who repent (Revelation 6:9-11). In the meantime, they lived righteous and devout lives according to their vocations and died in the faith, and so do we live righteous and devout lives according to our vocations, and, unless the Lord returns the final time first, we die in the faith. We live each and every day in His forgiveness of sins, and we wait—not like our waiting for delayed Christmas presents, a traffic light, or temporary physical healing, but we wait—for His final coming with eager expectation, with steadfast and patient endurance of the afflictions that God permits us to face and by which He strengthens us, trusting God’s grace and power, and confidently knowing that God will act to deliver us in His time (Coppes, #1994, TWOT, 791; confer Titus 2:13-14; Pieper, III:84-85, 510). Then the waiting truly will be over.

Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

+ + + Soli Deo Gloria + + +