Göttinger Predigten

deutsch English español
português dansk Schweiz


Aktuelle Predigten


Besondere Gelegenheiten





Unsere Autoren weltweit

ISSN 2195-3171

Göttinger Predigten im Internet hg. von U. Nembach
Donations for Sermons from Goettingen

New Year's Eve, 12/31/2017

Sermon on Luke 2:22-40, by Carl A. Voges

The Passage

“And 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 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.”


“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,


‘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 glory to your people Israel.’


“And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘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.’


“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.


“And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of the God was upon him.”

    [English Standard Version]


“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”                                                                      [Galatians 4.4f.]


                                        In the Name of Christ + Jesus our Lord


During these Twelve Days of Christ Mass we are surrounded with all kinds of reality:

there’s the friend who is unsure about the direction of his or her life but is hesitant to talk about it; there are the politicians in Washington who have let us see how messy tax reform can be; there’s the family member who has to deal with the diagnosis of a serious illness; there are the national law enforcement leaders who cause citizens to wonder about their integrity; there’s the colleague at work who is driven only by self; there are the political leaders in our counties and cities whose skill-sets seem low and uninspired; there’s the person who is refusing in live in the ways of Baptism.


A week ago today, on the Evening of Christ Mass, we stepped into these Twelve Days and began observing the Son’s Incarnation. These Days have made us keenly aware that the Life of the Holy Trinity has finally made its way into this world’s life.  The Son’s eternal Life has been incarnated, signaling the redemption that will pour out of his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.


The striking, incredulous reality is that the Son, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, are doing this for a people whose lives are so self-centered and messy they are not worthy of the rescue that crosses their lives when they are baptized. These individuals, who include us, need this rescue and we need it badly!


This is a startling, new perspective! It whips us past the usual celebrations of Christ Mass, the ones that get sentimental over the baby Jesus, the ones that make more of our families than of the Lord God, the ones that measure the Incarnation’s impact in the number and quality of gifts!


This new perspective is rooted in the Lord’s Incarnation and, consequently, we are not shocked that the Days after the Incarnation are devoted first to the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, then to Saint John the Theologian and then to the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem.

All three of these days reflect the necessity of the world’s redemption and the impact of the Trinity’s Life as it makes its way into and through this world.


This startling, new perspective brings us to this day, the First Sunday after Christ Mass. This passage from Luke 2 zeroes in on two familiar persons – Simeon and Anna.  Both of these persons are very instructive for the Lord’s baptized people today.


Jesus’ Birth has made his mother, Mary, ritually impure. Since she and Jesus’ Guardian are faithful Jewish parents, they carry out the obligations of the Law given through Moses.  These obligations include Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation in the temple because he is the first-born in the family along with a sacrificial offering of two doves or pigeons.   As Jesus’ parents carry out these obligations, they meet Simeon, a man who is upright and devout, one who is waiting for the redemption of the Lord’s people.


The Holy Spirit has seen to it that Simeon will not die until he sees the Lord’s Messiah.

Simeon receives the Child into his arms and speaks well of the Lord God. Simeon calls him “Mighty Master” and refers to himself as a servant or slave.  He asks the Lord God to let him depart in his life and peace because the Lord kept his word!  Simeon’s eyes are seeing the salvation that the Lord is making ready for all the world’s people to see.  This salvation will be the Light that is revealed to the Gentiles (the outsiders to the Jewish tradition) and the Light that is Israel’s glory (the Lord’s promised people, the insiders to that same tradition).  Simeon’s words astonish both Joseph and Mary. 


Simeon then speaks well of them and addresses Mary with the following comments. He notes that her Son is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel as well as for a sign that will be contradictory.  Indeed, Simeon notes that a sword will pass through Mary’s life, revealing the inner thoughts of many people.  This contradictory sign and sword do more than refer to death, they point to the reality that whenever Jesus’ Life surfaces in the world it forces people to choose between living for themselves or for him!


Jesus and his parents also meet Anna, an elderly prophetess. Like Simeon she is faithful, observing the Jewish hours for prayer (recall that there were seven of them in the course of a day!).  It is intriguing to note that Luke describes her as from the tribe of Asher (this is one of the ten tribes that disappeared in the early 700s before our Lord’s ministry!).  When she sees Jesus she, too, gives thanks to the Lord God and speaks of Jesus to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s redemption.


Luke concludes this passage with the return of Jesus and his parents to Nazareth, noting Jesus’ growth and strength along with the wisdom and favor of the Lord God.


How does this passage drive the new perspective given to the Lord’s people today, one that makes it clear we badly need to be rescued?


First, there are the older ages of Simeon and Anna. They recall the signature psalm for the Lord’s older people – Psalm 71.  Its verses point out that the Lord is our confidence since we are young.   He is our refuge and strength; he will not forsake us as we get older.   We will continually recount his mighty acts and saving deeds; we will make known the Lord’s strength and power to not only this generation but also the ones to come; we will praise him for his faithfulness.


Second, there is Simeon’s Song, the Nunc Dimittis, sung every Sunday in the Liturgy following the Eucharist. This Song is magnificent, describing the salvation that rolls in on world’s people through the actions of the Son, the Father and the Spirit.  The Song is overwhelming because the Son’s Cross runs quietly, yet powerfully, underneath it – the  Cross revealing the world’s salvation.  The Song reminds us that the Lord’s promises of salvation are rock-solid and that his Life is always swirling around and through our messy and self-absorbed lives.


It is no accident then that we sing this Song immediately following our participation in the Lord’s Supper. The eating of the Son’s Body and drinking of his Blood take us back to the Cross that makes our redemption possible.  The Song reminds us that the Cross, first traced over our bodies at Baptism, will sustain us in this life and carry us to completion in eternity.  The Cross is an incredible reality, one that the world needs desperately, but one that the world cannot see easily.

Earlier we noted some of the world’s realities that are surrounding our lives as we make our way through these Twelve Days. Such realities can press in on us so severely that we begin to lose sight of what the Lord God is honestly doing in the Son’s Incarnation.  That’s why the Lord startles us today and gives us a new perspective.  He is bringing us face to face with the Son’s Incarnation and is pointing us to the subsequent crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. 


Thus it is our delight as well as our responsibility to speak well of what the Lord God is doing for us and to thank him for his salvation. And to whom do we speak of the Lord’s actions?  The people whose lives have been owned, driven and mangled by the gods of this world; the people whose lives are self-centered and messy; the people whose lives are exhausted and desperate.


Simeon and Anna were speaking to people just like that, people who recognize how badly they need to be rescued. And as the Lord’s Cross traces over such lives, people see the rescue that comes only from him.  This rescue began with the Son’s Incarnation and runs all the way to his Ascension.  May these Twelve Days of Christ Mass sharpen our awareness of what the Holy Trinity has done for us and all the world’s people in the Son’s Incarnation!  And may that Life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit continue to pour into our parish communities from their holy Scriptures and Sacraments!


  Now may the peace of the Lord God, which is beyond all understanding, keep our hearts 

                                     and minds through Christ + Jesus our Lord.

Pr. Carl A. Voges
E-Mail: carl.voges4@icloud.com