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Luke 2:22-40

The Rev. Jon Roberts

2 February


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.


Simeon's Song of Praise by Aert de Gelder, 1645-1727;
The Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands

Today we find a tired, old man, at the Temple,
sitting on those cold-stone steps to the right.
He counts the hours and he counts the days,
waiting for God to send the Light. [1]

Alas, a mother, a father and child come forward. There is light around them as he never had seen before. A soft voice whispers in his ear and he is overtaken by joy. You can hear new strength return to his voice and a song rises up.
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, *
according to thy word;
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, *
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
To be a light to lighten the Nations (Gentiles), *
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.” [2]

We find another figure; a lady, eighty-four years old. She, like the old man, stayed at the Temple night and day, waiting for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Both Simeon and Anna had waited day and light, waiting to see the light. It is fitting that this continues to occur in the season of Epiphany. This is a season of light. Light always reveals the truth and the truth is, our faith matures over a lifetime of waiting. We wait patiently upon the Lord.

At one of the packed, airline ticket counters, recently, all of the ticket agents were doing their best to politely process each passenger as quickly as they could. A man toward the end of the snaking line of passengers was obviously impatient and very frustrated at having to wait so long in the slow moving line. He finally decided to march right up to the counter pulling his wheeled suitcase and demanded that he be given his boarding pass. The ticket agent turned, looked at him, blinked, took a shallow, deep breath and said, "Sir, as you can see there are many passengers ahead of you. We are doing our best to process the passengers as fast as we can. I'm afraid you'll have to get back in line.” Outraged and red in the face, the man yelled at the ticket agent saying, "Do you know who I am?!!!"
The ticket agent turned, looked at him, blinked, took another shallow, deep breath, picked up the public address system microphone and said calmly, "There is a man at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. Anyone who may be able to identify this man is asked to please step forward and identify him. Thank you.”

To identify the Lord takes patience and perseverance. He is not one who will be intrusive or pushy, making demands. He will not be demanding. His identification is found in light. This is what Simeon, and Anna the prophetess, were looking for in our Gospel today.[3] They were waiting and watching. They waited for a sign that would point to the Messiah. With a father and mother, coming to dedicate their baby son, they found what they had been waiting for. They found it in poverty. A young married couple, flat broke, with a young child forty days old. They couldn’t afford the lamb as a celebratory gift to give the Church in exchange for the priestly blessing of dedication. They could barely afford the basic offering of two turtledoves. This was the bare minimum requirement by law, to be offered in exchange for the dedication of their child. The Holy Family didn’t push their way in line, saying “Don’t you know who this child is?” “He is the one visited by the magi.” “He is the one who the angel appeared and said his name would be Emmanuel.” Instead, they waited their turn. A long line of families with their baby boys. You can see them make comparisons; who has the most expensive gift to offer; who is who. “Here comes that old man Simeon. There is that old prophetess, Anna. Old people. They’ve been in the Church for eons. What do they know?” Apparently, they knew how to identify the Messiah. Their waiting was over.

Where do we find those like Simeon or Anna in our church today? They are the ones who are constantly in prayer. They will most likely say, ‘God is always worth the wait.’ These are Christians who carry the light of Christ. You may find them carry the offering plate or greeting people at the door. You may find them behind the front desk or hear their voice when you call the church. You may find them in the back cleaning chalices and brass, making essential preparations for liturgical events. You may find them in the kitchen, preparing food to make hospitality a priority. You may find them in the Food Pantry handing out tuna fish or peanut butter to those who come off the street. During the time they wait, looking for light, they are in prayer and they are waiting.

Who are you waiting for? Who do you put your hope to be “The One”? Who are you waiting for, who will deliver you in your time of need? Who will be the one who will fix all the problems in the world? Perhaps you’re waiting and asking the wrong questions. Patiently, we are called to wait; to listen; to serve rather than be served. With age, comes wisdom and both Simeon and Anna had plenty. They knew that life would have its ups and downs. They knew that loved ones would come and go, and they knew that God was found in the waiting. The same Son of the Father is now asking you to dedicate your life to Him. He asks, “Do you know who I am?” “Yes, we know who you are. We’ve been waiting for you, for our eyes have seen the light of our salvation. We are God’s chosen people, called to reveal the light which is only to be found through Christ Jesus. Today we will meet those who are young and those who are old. Let us join them in being patient, praying night and day; praying for God to reveal the light.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Nunc Dimittis
[3] Luke 2:22-42

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