Well, take a look at our friends Simeon and Anna. They're old. They've been waiting for Christ to come their entire lives. They believe the prophecy from Isaiah 11, "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." They believe God will send this Messiah, who will judge the poor with righteousness and strike the lips of the wicked. And so believed generations of Jews now resting safely in their graves. God hadn't sent a prophet since Malachi, more than 400 years! Meanwhile the religious elites are straying further and further from God's Word (the Sadducees even rejected the resurrection!) and upon King David's throne sits an imposter.
Can you imagine how exhausted these two were? Anna has been in the temple praying and fasting since she was a young woman, now she's 84! And Simeon is so old and tired of waiting that after he holds the baby Jesus he exclaims, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace," meaning, "Lord, I'm ready to die now!" And so you see after decades of waiting, growing old and tired God keeps his promise to faithful Simeon and Anna. Today's lesson teaches us that God keeps his promises to old, tired Christians. (Even you who just feel old, God keeps his promise).
Holding the Christ Child Simeon says, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel." And so he confesses that this Blooming Rose from the stump of Jesse was the Savior not only for the people of Israel, but for all Gentiles, for you and me.
Christ's birth and presentation proved to Anna and Simeon that God keeps his promises. And when you're dealing with someone who keeps his word you should listen to what he says. Simeon prophesied to Mary, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
Jesus will be the source of the fall and rise of many in Israel. Of course, Mary herself sang in her Magnificat, "He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate" (Luke 1:52). Christ will humble all who try to please God by their own works. He will cast down the religious bigshots who care nothing about God's Word. And lest you think it is only other people whom Christ will bring low, he will humble you too. Indeed he must! Christ will confront you with every sin you've ever committed, he'll show its severity without filter. Simeon told the young mother Mary that her soul too would be stabbed through, foreshadowing to Christ's gruesome crucifixion with his mother kneeling before the cross weeping for her son.
Mary felt the sword as only a mother, who witnesses her beloved son's execution could. Yet this sword pierces you as well. It goes right through your soul until you keel over. When you contemplate the cross of Christ, you cannot help but lament your sins, which put him there. And so are you torn down, fallen. And this is to your great benefit. Because it is only in this humble estate that you can be exalted. Christ raises only those, who have fallen in their sin. Our Lord himself said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) It is the repentant sinners, whom Christ will exalt to everlasting life. Those who will not fall nor feel the bite of the sword will fall eternally. God keeps his word.
And so we can even find a reason to rejoice in our repentance. Sure it sounds weird. Repentance involves sorrow of heart, weeping, and fear. And yet, a repentant heart is a sign of faith in Christ. When you bemoan your sinful condition, sorry that Christ had to bear the burden for your mess-up, you can thank God and rejoice that he yet again yanked your soul out of your self-made hell and that he has already paid for your sins. You can rejoice that the God who fulfilled his word by bringing you low with the stab of his sword, will also raise you up according to his word.
God gifted Simeon with the Holy Spirit, so that he would go to the temple and recognize the Christ Child. And finally laying eyes on the boy the tired old man rejoiced. Anna told everyone who was waiting for redemption about this child, who answered her decades long prayer. And yet, at the end of the day, what do we see? A religious old man and a religious old woman, celebrating what seems to be an everyday occurrence: a young couple brings their first born son to the temple to present him to the Lord according to the Law. An unbeliever could look at the exact same episode and see nothing remarkable: just overly religious old-timers and a cute kid. Probably what unbelievers think when they come to church when a friend's kid is baptized.
And yet, Simeon rejoices. Anna can't stop thanking God. Because God answered their prayers. But it took faith for them to see that God was doing that.
There will be a time when both believers and unbelievers will see God for who he is when Christ comes in judgment. It won't require faith to know who the one true God is. But at that time there will be no more time for those who did not believe to repent and be saved.
But today, God does keep his promises; even to you old, tired, Lutherans. Just as he was for Simeon and Anna, God is faithful to his Word. That Baptism you were taught about even as a child really does wash away your sins. Everything the Scriptures say about Jesus is absolutely true. Even this morning, you will join with Simeon in singing, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," after you witness God's word accomplished. The same Christ, who was held by Simeon and whose sword of passion pierced through Mary and you, this same Christ comes to you today under the disguise of bread and wine. To the scoffers it's religious foolishness. But to you, it's the consolation you need so you can rest in peace.
God knows your tired. God knows you're growing old. That is why God gives you his Word and Sacraments complete with the faith giving Holy Spirit, so that you may know God keeps his promises, even to you. Amen.