“I Could Just Die Now”
They brought the offering of the poor. They could only afford the turtle doves. But it was an offering commanded in the Law – for the life of every first-born Israelite belonged to Yahweh and had to be redeemed, ever since the first-born of Egypt died in the Exodus. Yet even as they purchased the offering and entered the Temple precincts, they knew that that the real offering was not the birds, but the Babe. He would be the Offering to end all offerings. In Him the Law would be fulfilled. They thought that they and a handful of others were the only ones in the know.
But then they see him – according to tradition, an old man. He is not looking at them. He is looking at the Babe in Mary’s arms. And he is coming across the courtyard with the familiar look on his face. Mary had seen it before. It was on the face of Elizabeth when she visited her and Elizabeth looked in awe at her swelling womb. It was on the face of the Shepherds when they knelt beside the manger and told her of the angels and their words and song. Now it was on the face of this old man as he hurried toward them, aged arms outstretched, reaching for the Child.
Mary would not give her precious package up lightly to anyone, but she saw and understood the look. Yet another one in the know. Yet another one who realized that Mary was holding THE offering, the Child that would bring to an end man’s long exile and open wide the way home to the Father’s house. She knows she can safely give Him into old Simeon’s arms. He’s been waiting a life-time.
Simeon holds the Child, looks into his infant face, and he begins to pray. Not to any other, but to Him, to the Child in his arms: “Now, Lord! Now you can let your servant go in peace. I’ve seen Your salvation. A light for the gentiles. Glory for your people Israel.”
Which is all to say: “I can just die now.” Now that I know that the Death of death lives and breathes on earth, I have no fear. How could I fear the displeasure of God when I see the irrefutable testimony of that love right here in my arms. God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son. Gave Him into the flesh. Here is forgiveness! Here is life! Here is the peace that all the world longs for!
It was surely a stroke of genius when some long forgotten Lutheran suggested that the words of Simeon were the perfect words to sing when we come back from the Table of the Lord. Having received the Body and Blood of Him whom Simeon held all those centuries ago, we pray with him: “It’s okay, Lord. I can just die now. Take me home! I’ve seen your salvation. I’ve tasted your life. My sins are forgiven. My death is destroyed. I have nothing to fear because YOU have given yourself to me entirely. I can go home right now.”
Mary and Joseph presented the turtle doves that day, but the true Offering was the Child they held – the Child Simeon held – the Child who is our Lord and Savior and who delights to give Himself to us that we might “depart in peace” according to His Word!