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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
The First Sunday of Christmas
December 27, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

WITH CHRIST, A PEACEFUL DEPARTURE
Luke 2:25-32

Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen. The portion of God's Word that we will consider on this day comes from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, beginning with the 25th verse, as follows:

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 So he came by 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, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." So far our text.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, who said, "Because I live, you shall live also," Dear Fellow Redeemed,

The holiday season reminds us once again how much of our life has to do with arrivals and departures. Most of us, I think, got to visit with loved ones that we perhaps hadn't seen for a long time. And the arrivals - when you first greet those loved ones - is always a joyful time, isn't it? The departures are often a different matter. They can be sad, almost heartbreaking at times.

For Christians, the season we're currently in is about arrivals and departures, too. At Christmas we hail the arrival of our Savior, who became an incarnate human being in order to redeem us from our sins. But it is also a time of departures, and it is departures that we especially want to center our thoughts on this morning. In our text for today we will meet an elderly believer who was on the very brink of departing this earthly life. Would his departure be anxious, full of uncertainty and misgivings, or would it be peaceful? The question might be asked of every one of us, and the answer is in our text for this morning. Our theme today:

WITH CHRIST...A PEACEFUL DEPARTURE

It was forty days after the birth of Christ that Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple; and that's where they met this devout old believer named Simeon.

Simeon is a Hebrew name that means listen, and Simeon had been listening to God. All his life he listed to God's Word, to the Old Testament prophesies of a coming Savior. And he waited. And finally, a special message had been given him by God. Verse 26 tells us that "...it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." And on that day, God made good His Word, as He always does. The Holy Spirit led him to the Temple, where he saw Joseph and Mary. Then a strange thing happened. You parents can imagine how you'd have felt if an elderly stranger had walked up to you after church and picked up your baby. But there was a dignity and an authority in Simeon. He acted as if he knew Jesus. And of course he did. He took the baby Jesus gently in his arms, lifted his eyes to heaven and said: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation!"

We don't know how long Simeon lived after that day; I've got an idea it might not have been very long. But one thing we do know - Simeon was one man who departed this world in peace! The one thing he most wanted to see in all the world, the thing the nation of Israel had been waiting for for centuries, God granted to Simeon. There in his arms, he saw the Lord's promised Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world! But most importantly, Simeon saw in that little Child his own Savior, the Person who would one day shed His blood for him in the cross of Calvary in order to secure for him, Simeon, a place in paradise. And having seen Jesus, and loved Him, and believed in Him, Simeon said that was enough. That was all he needed. With that, he was ready to depart this world in peace!

What about you? Here's an exercise you can do - fill in the blank: "I think I could die in peace, if only I had the chance to do (blank) first." What would you put in the blank? A lot of people live their lives with a constant view toward the kinds of extraordinary things they'd like to do or experience before they die. There was even a movie, called "The Bucket List," about that very phenomenon. Well, what would be on your list? Skydiving? Hang-gliding? Climbing Mount Everest? As your pastor, I'd like to encourage you to narrow that list down. In fact, when all is said and done you can really focus on only one thing - to know Jesus Christ and trust in Him for salvation. To stay connected to Him through constant study and meditation on His Word. To let your faith in Him be the "hub of the wheel," that part of your life that dictates and controls every other part! Simeon's "bucket list" had one thing on it - to hold the world's Messiah in his arms. He needed nothing more. The Apostle Paul said essentially the same thing: But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; -- Philippians 3:7-9.

There aren't many Scripture texts that are routinely used on more than one occasion in the church year. Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem is one - it's used, of course, on Palm Sunday, but it's also used on the first Sunday in Advent. This account, of the aged Simeon bearing the child Jesus in his arms, is another. It is used today, on the Sunday after Christmas. Can you guess what the other occasion is on which this text is frequently used? It's often used for funerals! It's easy to see why, isn't it? A funeral is obviously a time of departure, and yet, for Christians, it is also a time of joy. We've had a number funerals here at Ascension, and on the occasion of a funeral we commemorate the passing of a fellow believer. In each case it's the commemoration, not of a perfect person, but rather of a sinful human being. Just like me, and just like you. Just like aged Simeon, for that matter. Like Simeon, each Christian we've buried so far from this church had a long life, and saw a lot of things. But also like Simeon, the Lord showed each of them the most important thing in life. God allowed them to see Jesus - with the eyes of faith - as their personal Savior from sin. With that knowledge, these believers were ready when the Lord called for them. With Christ...a peaceful departure.

What a rare thing peacefulness is nowadays! We've got so much stuff packed into our lives - so many activities, so much hustle and bustle, I'm afraid a lot of people can no longer tell the difference between what's really important in life and what's not. How about you? Have you got your priorities straight? You remember the two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus' feet to listen to His Word, while Martha bustled about the kitchen getting supper ready. Finally, Martha started complaining to the Lord Jesus because Mary wasn't helping. But do you remember what Jesus said? "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." --Luke 10:41-42.

One thing is needed. To see Jesus Christ in the Word of God, and to believe in Him as your Savior - that is the single most important thing in life. And it's the only thing you need to prepare for the day when you will leave this life. Without faith in Christ, you will never be prepared even if you live to be a hundred. With faith in Christ, you will never be unprepared -- even if your final day comes tomorrow!

Our God has told us in His Word that a believer has nothing to fear in death. The Apostle Paul asks a question that needs no answer: "O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory? ...Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." -- 1 Cor 15:42,44. Jesus has defeated all our enemies, with death being the last one. For a Christian who has been washed in the blood of Jesus, death is nothing more than the gateway to a life that never ends. In this life, the weaknesses and diseases of our frail human bodies afflict and distress us. Especially as we get on in years, it seems that our bodies increasingly betray us and become a burden. But as Pastor Bruce Naumann reminded us a few weeks ago, all the aches and pains, all the sin and sorrow and suffering-that's just temporary. It is but for a moment, said the Apostle Paul. But the joy, and the rejoicing, and the great glory-that will go on for eternity! In Christ we can look forward to our heavenly home, where there are no tears. There are no diseases or disabilities, no frailties of old age, no pain. When a person meets his Savior in heaven, there is perfect peace, and a happiness that is greater than you or I even have the power to imagine! Jesus told His disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." - Jn 14:1-2.

Jesus has prepared a place for you, too, in the mansions of heaven. Shall He save that place for you, or not? When your last day comes, would you like to be able to say with Simeon, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart...in peace?" then abide in your Savior Jesus Christ! There's nothing in your life that's more important than this! You may think there is. You young people especially may at times think there is, but trust me-there isn't. Better yet, trust the older believers you see around you this morning - they'll tell you the same thing. Best of all, trust the Word of God, for The grass withers and the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." -- Isa. 40:8. Trust that unchanging Gospel of salvation. Bring all your sins in repentance to your Lord Jesus. No matter what you've been or what you've done, you'll find pardon under the shadow of His cross. With the blood He shed on that cross, Jesus paid the price for every one of your sins. And with His resurrection on Easter morning, Jesus gained - for you! - the final victory over death.

With Christ...a peaceful departure. That's the promise God made to Simeon, and it's the promise He kept. It's the promise He has made to countless believers over the centuries, and it's the promise He kept. My friends, God has made that promise to you, as well. Take him up on the offer of His grace. Why not make a New Year's resolution? Why not resolve that in 2016 you will, more and more, live in Christ, and for Christ. Place Him - and keep Him! - at the very top of your life's priorities. Then you'll have the peace of knowing that you too possess the one thing needful for a blessed life, and for a peaceful death. Then you'll learn the truth of those comforting words of Jesus: "Because I live, you will live also." We have only a limited time to spend as visitors here on this earth--let's make sure we're ready to leave whenever the Lord decides it's our time to go. Let's make sure we have the key to a truly peaceful departure: FAITH in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN.