Our Gospel story from Luke 2 is one for the senses. Touch and sight are clearly mentioned in verses 28 and 30. And though not literally spoken of in the Text, other senses of Salvation will find their way to us as well in this experience of the Gospel as well… in This Very MOMENT (vs 38) today as we are found — like Simeon and Anna — “looking forward” (vs 25) to them.
Have you ever “seen Salvation?” Have you ever held It in your arm’s embrace? Simeon did! In verse 28 Luke tells us Simeon, a stranger even if righteous and devout, reached out and snatched Him up before His mother and father even knew what was happening. And then in verse 30 Simeon himself “sings,” “my eyes have SEEN (Yahweh’s) Salvation!” (translation of the name of “Jesus”)
Have you ever kissed Salvation?
I imagine just like Mary and Joseph, Simeon did. Having hosted a houseful of precious grandchildren these past holy days, I have watched what mothers and fathers, grandmothers and uncles and aunts and even cousins and extended relatives and friends and neighbors
— and even perhaps some fast-moving, presumptuously uninhibited,
unrestrained strangers —
I’ve watched what they all do when a little bundle of joy enters the room. KISS! KISS! KISS! The cherub cheeks and the favored forehead and the wrinkly soles and toes…
I imagine even before he started singing his prophetic Good News of Jesus, Simeon Kiss…Kiss…Kissed Salvation! And then he went ecstatic and burst into song about Him and in celebration of Him— as if he were a major sudden soloist in a Broadway musical.
(sing here to tune from my childhood post-Communion worship)
“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart
in peace, according to Your Word.
For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvataion
Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
A Light to lighten the Gentiles
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
You see—and hear… Salvation is not just some “idea,” some abstract concept of the mind. This Gospel story makes it clear that Salvation is actually something— or better — SOMEONE tangible, inspiring…
He is Someone God made flesh for us to see and hear, Someone Simeon teaches us we can take up in our arm’s embrace and Kiss…Kiss…Kiss!
Simeon, the ancient sage shares his wisdom with us — the wisdom of being on the lookout forward — with enduring patience — for the Salvation that God has for Israel and for ALL — including US. He schools us in the reward of faith, the gift of belief in God and trust in the Divine promises. Are you, are we looking forward to God’s consolation? Are we hoping and trusting you will see in your own God MOMENTS God’s Salvation — for your afflictions of health concerns… of financial struggles… of broken relationships, loneliness, melancholy, fears and sins?
Then Anna picks up the inspired song, teaching us that life is truly
MOMENT by MOMENT… It was at a very singular Moment of her 84 years long life that Anna came into the Temple area and the Presence of Salvation. Verse 38 talks of a particular Moment in her life Anna stepped up and like Simeon just moments before her, evidently she too “sees,” she too recognizes God’s Salvation when she sees Him.
And, like another Broadway singer, she too goes ecstatic, bursting into her own song. Unlike Simeon’s however, we must imagine her lyric and her melody as they are not quoted for us like his. Luke simply says, she burst into praise. She had waited on God for some six decades since her husband died too young — after only seven years of marriage. The virtues of patience and endurance, and the unlikely fruit of the Spirit — HOPE — these three are personified and illustrated for us in Anna, the aged one.
Perhaps we don’t have to settle for imagining her song. Perhaps we already have a fitting prospect for her song, Advent-penned by Charles Wesley and tuned by W. Walker, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”
(sung here ELW # 254)
“Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art,
dear desire of ev’ry nation, joy of ev’ry longing heart.”
What more fitting lyric could we imagine? It’s easy to hear her inspiring mature mezzo soprano voice thrilling all who hear her praise-filled telling of the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna, the ancient sage shares her wisdom and experience with us. She shares the wisdom of being on the lookout forward — with enduring patience — moment by moment, year after year for the Salvation that God has for Israel and for ALL — including US. She too schools us in the reward of faith, the prize of belief in God, and the blessings of trust in the Divine promises. Are you, are we looking forward to God’s redemption of Jerusalem and Palestine and the Middle East, Europe and Russia and Africa, South & North & Central America, Asia & Mpls and Mtka? Are we hoping and trusting we will see God’s Salvation in our own God MOMENTS— wherever and whenever we are in the Presence of God’s Salvation?
And indulge me if you will… just a moment more of imaginative pondering… Do you wonder like me… if Anna didn’t also steal a Kiss, Kiss, Kiss of God’s Salvation before she allowed His puzzled if not SHOCKED fledgling parents to take Him home from the stunning, unexpected craziness of the Jerusalem Temple? (Ironically, brutally it will be a Kiss, Kiss, Kiss in a garden just outside of Jerusalem that will later betray the same Jesus Whom Simeon and Anna so lovingly and trustingly embrace and “see” as God’s Salvation. Thankfully, we like the ancient ones, especially living on this side of the Gospel story already “see” that “that brutal kiss” cannot and will not stop God’s Salvation from rising to bring us Eternal Life!)
Now, lest we leave God’s Salvation back in the Bible or back in the lives of the ancients, consider the power of seeing Jesus, Yahweh Saves to inspire far more than a thrilling, chilling song of old.
Of Simeon’s Faithful Proclamation, Lauren F Winner writing in commentary for “The Hardest Question,” penned these thoughts:
“…over the centuries, faithful Christians have turned to (Simeon’s) words, lifting them out of Scripture and liturgy and pronouncing when they think they are seeing something that smacks of salvation. Here’s one very public example: the Republican convention, Chicago, 1860. During the tense third ballot, Ohio switched four votes from Salmon P. Chase to Abraham Lincoln, thereby giving the lawyer from Illinois the nomination. At Ohio’s announcement, one man started crying and another old man started quoting Scripture, at the top of his lungs: “Now Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace for these eyes of mine…”²
“…how very striking that at this climactic political moment, this moment that set the nation on the course to liberate 4 million slaves, our old Republican man reached for those words of an earlier old man—as though the convention attender in Chicago had a premonition of the redemption that Lincoln’s election would eventually help bring about.
In both cases, these (old) men looked at an unlikely source and saw God at work, and announced the salvation they saw for all to hear.”
If Simeon’s faithful proclamation Good News song could contribute to the inspiration of Lincoln’s liberation of 4 million from slavery, what might it contribute to the God’s moments of liberation of our current society?
For our contemporary culture of prejudice and violence, terror and hatred and hopeless despairing… what might the subject of the inspired songs of two ancient ones’ response to God’s Salvation inspire in our moments of sensing God’s liberation? Might they not lead us to be the incarnation of Yahwey’s salvation showing up at the right time in God’s ordinary temples of our day?
And come to our senses… have you ever felt Salvation pressed into the palm of your hand or brought Him to your very own lips to taste? If you have come to the Lord’s Table with patient, enduring expectation you have come to just the right place at just the right moment…
Psalm 34:8 captures the tip of the tongue’s taste buds and the heart of our hearts:
O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
We gather at Table in the Lord’s House “looking forward” to taste and see that the Lord is good in the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the fruit of the True Vine (John 15:1). In the ordinariness of wheat and wine as in the ordinariness of a solitary newborn Christmas child brought to God’s House by an ordinary couple on a particular day, in these we sense our encountering of God’s Extraordinary Salvation. Today, — at THIS moment — the Presence of Jesus, Yahweh’s Salvation… “has come to THIS House” for us! (Luke 19:9) He is so real we can taste Him! It’s enough to inspire us to ecstatic song… which is what my church did for my whole childhood — feast on Holy Communion and then sing Simeon’s ecstatic song, the “Nunc Dimittis.” The family of God gathered at Table and after the feast departing in peace, seeing and tasting and knowing that Salvation had come for us, just as God promised.
Are you getting the sense that Yahweh’s Salvation, Christ Jesus is among us and arriving daily for the Salvation of all? Wait and watch forward… looking forward to see and hear, taste and touch, celebrate and sing Salvation’s long-expected coming in these very moments!