When Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a cantata for this day in the Church Year, he based the text on St. Simeon’s song. In one movement, he paraphrased what St. Simeon said with this simple phrase: “I have enough.” There is so much more to what St. Simeon said, but it is all well-summarized in those three words.
“I have enough.” That is, I have had enough of this world. I have had enough of sin, of illness, of old age, of the wisdom of the flesh, of the mighty of this world. I am ready to depart in peace. God, I am ready for you to fulfill Your promise that I would see Your Christ and then die in peace, ready for Your angels to come to bear me to Abraham’s bosom. I have enough. I die unfearing because I know this world has nothing for me, no pleasure I would share.
“I have enough.” I have seen the face of my Creator, of my Redeemer. I have held Your Salvation. I have held the Infant who will grow, who will be the ultimate sacrificial Lamb, who will die for my sin, for the sin of the world. I have enough, O Lord, for You have kept your promise.
Imagine what St. Simeon must have felt on this day when Our Lord was presented in the Temple. He had waited his entire life for this day. The Holy Spirit had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he waited patiently, well into old age. And one day the Holy Spirit summoned the aged saint to the temple. He came, and as he watched countless ordinary families come through for the purification of the mothers and presentation of the firstborn, suddenly the Lord whom he sought came to His Temple. Though in appearance this was just another family, the Holy Spirit revealed to St. Simeon’s eyes of faith the Virgin who conceived and her child, Emmanuel, the One sent to save His people from their sins.
St. Simeon leaves behind the aches and slowness of old age, runs to the Holy Family, and takes Jesus into his arms. With tears of joy running down his cheeks he sings to that Baby, he prays to that Baby: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word.” From that point on, nothing mattered. Earthly life was not worth living, for earth had no pleasure he would share because his own eyes had seen the Lord’s Salvation.
This day you come face-to-face with that same Salvation. The same Jesus whom St. Simeon took into his arms is placed on your tongue as His Body and Blood are joined to bread and wine, the weak things of this world, to bring you full forgiveness of all your sins.
And as you receive this Salvation prepared before the face of all people, you are given the opportunity to sing with St. Simeon. Though singing his song is a liturgical uniqueness among the Lutherans, it is a rather appropriate uniqueness. Each time you leave this altar and sing, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word,” you say with St. Simeon, “I have enough.” Not just, “I have had enough of this world, the sin of my flesh, the destruction Satan has wrought,” but also “I have enough, for I have Christ. In preaching and the Blessed Sacrament He has given Himself fully to me, fully forgiven me, and made me ready to depart this life and come to my heavenly home.”
In that way, coming to the Altar prepares you for a blessed death. Just as you do not come to the Altar in fear, but in eager expectation of the gifts Christ here gives you, so by your receiving of these gifts may you approach death with the same eager expectation. Death is noting to fear, for it is just like the Lord’s Supper: you get to come face-to-face with your Lord, face-to-face with your Salvation. This eager expectation, this peace which the world cannot give is the sole property of the Baptized, of the redeemed of Christ. Here at this Altar, as you are in receipt of all Christ comes to give you, you confess with St. Simeon: I am ready to depart in peace. Earth has no pleasure I would share. I am redeemed from sin, eternal death, and the wrath of God by the precious Blood of the Son of God. Because that Blood of Christ covers me and fills me, death is a deep, strong, and sweet sleep, and the coffin is nothing but paradise and the bosom of my Lord Jesus Christ. (Luther)
As you leave this altar this day and return to your pew, you return to sing—with St. Simeon and all the redeemed of Christ—a confession of the Lord’s goodness, of His full and free forgiveness given to you this day. You sing that you have enough, you have all you need, because you have Christ. And because you have Christ, there is nothing that this world can offer that is greater, or is even necessary. This means that what Christ has here given you is not just enough to sustain you in this life, but to sustain you unto life everlasting, until that day when you are forever face-to-face with Jesus Christ, your Joy, Reward, and Glory.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.