Do you see what I see?
Christmas Eve Luke 2:22-33
Christmas carols is a wonderful during this time of year, and we all
have our favorite carols. I think a favorite of almost everyone is the Christmas carol,
“Silent Night,” composed in 1818, by Moore and Gruber.
It is a beautiful Christmas carol, and only 180 years old.
This carol is so sacred and so reverent, you
might have thought that “Silent Night” was actually written at
the time of Jesus’ birth and has been sung for centuries.
That is not true. Silent Night is only 180 years old. Only 180 years old.
carol is “Away in a Manger” and it was composed in 1865. It
first appeared in a small Lutheran book of worship.
Shortly thereafter, the name of Martin Luther was put on the
bottom of the page, and so many people erroneously thought
that Martin Luther composed it.
But Luther couldn’t have composed it because he had died
two hundred years before Away in a Manger was written.
But for more than a hundred years, not very long by any
means, this hymn has been deeply loved.
There is still
another carol written in 1962, only thirty-six years ago, and this
carol has become a favorite already.
The hymn is so new; it is only an infant. I was only
twenty-two when it was written.
I am convinced that as the years, decades and centuries go
by, this carol will become another favorite like Silent Night or
Away in a Manger. It is
the Christmas carol, “Do You See What I see?” You probably
recognize the melody with the words:
“Do see what I see, said the night wind to the little
lamb?” It was
composed by Regney and Stein.
The story of the
carol goes like this. It
is a wonderful, wonderful story, and easy to remember.
There is the night wind.
It begins with the night wind, and the night wind sees what
Christmas is all about. So
the night wind tells the little lamb, and then the little lamb sees
what Christmas is all about, and goes to the shepherd boy.
The little shepherd boy sees the meaning of Christmas,
and he goes to the mighty king and he says to the mighty king, “Do
you know what I know?” Then
the mighty king says to everyone, everywhere, in a deep, gruff
to what I say?” That’s
what kings always declare, “Listen to what I say!” The king
announces to his kingdom: “A
child, a child, will bring you goodness and light.”
Do you see what I
see? (sung) When you look into the manger and see the Christ child,
do you … see?
It is with this
mood that we approach the story of old Simeon in the Gospel lesson
for tonight. Old Simeon
had been promised by God that he would see the Messiah, the Anointed
One of God, before he died. He
had been promised to see the Christ, before he was buried in a
grave. God had promised
the old man that gift. This
is the story of the way it happened.
… As you may know, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
That is, Jesus’ parents had come to Jerusalem, the capital
city, to be taxed, and there was no room for them in the big city of
Jerusalem, so the pregnant couple went to the little town of
Bethlehem, two miles away, and there Jesus was born. Many people are convinced that Jesus was born, not in a
stable, but in a cave. I,
too, am convinced of that. That
is, if you go to Bethlehem today, you will find a massive cathedral.
To get into that cathedral, the door is very low, like only
36 inches high. You
have to stoop to get into the door.
You have to be humble to get into the door.
You then wander through this cathedral, through the maze of
hallways deep into the catacombs of the church, and you will finally
find a cave. It is
located at the very bottom of this cathedral.
In that cave, beginning one hundred years after
Jesus was born, there is a rock that pilgrims came for centuries to
kiss. That rock has been worn smooth by kisses over the centuries.
You can still touch that smooth rock.
In that cave, in the early 300s, was a man by the name of
Jerome who translated the Bible from Greek into Latin.
His Latin Bible ruled the church for more than a thousand
years. When you think
of the Roman Catholic version of the Bible, it is the Latin Vulgate,
translated by Jerome. And
where did St. Jerome translate it?
In that cave!!! In
that cave, Jerome lived. In
that cave where Jesus was born, he translated the Bible.
In that cave, pilgrims have come for centuries, to kiss the
rock and wear it smooth through human touch.
I, too, was there. I,
too, believed that Christ was born there. … And so Jesus’ father
and mother came to the capital city of Jerusalem that was very
massive sprawling city, and they couldn’t find a room, so they
traveled two more miles to the little town of Bethlehem.
There they found a cave, and Jesus was born in a cave where
the animals were kept.
The story goes on
to say that Jesus was circumcised at eight days, and then at
thirty-one days of age, something happened to Jesus.
This is the story for tonight.
Baby Jesus was brought back to the capital city, two miles
away, to the temple in Jerusalem. It only happened to a first-born male. This experience didn’t happen to a second, third or
fourth-born male. It
did not happen to infant girls.
This experience happened only to the first-born boy.
Mary and Joseph brought their first-born boy to the temple to
be dedicated to God. So
this was a once in a lifetime experience for the family.
Only once, in their whole lifetime, would the family have
this experience. This
was a very sacred moment for the family, filled with awe and
The temple was tall and gorgeous in those days, one hundred
and fifty feet high, of new construction.
It had been built by Herod the Great; Herod, the builder of
Israel; Herod who had built the palace by Caesarea by the Sea; Herod
who had built the palace up on the Sea of Galilee; Herod who had
built this temple. This
temple was brand new; it was only thirty years old.
This temple was the most magnificent structure that had ever
been seen in Israel, and so Mary and Joseph came this day to this
wonderful, glorious building. For
them, it was the most spectacular building on earth, and they came
into this new temple to bring their oldest son for a once in a
lifetime experience. I
can see in my mind, Mary and Joseph, coming into the temple, walking
forward to dedicate their first-born son to the Lord.
As they came in, in
my mind, I can see old Simeon slowly, ever so slowly, getting up,
and something happened within old Simeon’s heart.
Simeon knew that this was the one. I can image the
baby bundled ever so tightly, and the old man inching up to them and
asking to see the child. The
mother unwraps the baby so the old man can see, and the old man
looks into the baby’s eyes and he says these very famous words:
“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.
Now let your servant die, for my eyes have…seen.
I have seen your salvation that you have prepared for all
people, for those who are Jews and for those who are not Jews.
Lord God, I can depart in peace for my eyes have finally
Do you see what I
see, said the night wind to the little lamb?” (sung)
When Simeon look at
this baby Jesus, he didn’t see just brown hair and brown eyes and
brown skin of a little baby. He
didn’t see just a man and a woman with a baby child.
He saw. He
saw that this child was going to be the Messiah, the one who was
going to save all people from their sins.
asks of us the question: Do
you see? Do you see? What
do you see? What do you see when
you see the Christ child? Do
you see just another little Jewish baby?
Or what do you see when Jesus grew up and became a man?
What do you see? The father of the Christian religion? The
man from the New Testament who teaches all the little children to be
nice to each other? Or…do
you perceive that Jesus is the very presence of God on earth?
Do you perceive this evening that Jesus Christ is here in
this room, all around you? Do
you perceive the presence of Christ with us and in us and around us
at this moment? Do you
see? Do you see that
Jesus is the answer to all of your life’s complexities and riddles
and insoluable problems? Do
you see who Jesus really is? Do you see that Jesus can revolutionize
your life and turn it upside down and pull the self-centeredness out
of you so you finally can love other people? Do you see that
Do you see what I
see, said the night wind to the little lamb? (sung)
This evening I
would like to talk with you about the word, see.
There are two words in the Greek language for see.
The first word is the word, blepo.
I see you. I see
the poinsettias. I see
the manger scene. I see
the Christmas tree. I
see the red carpet and the red pews.
I see. I see. I see. That
is one Greek word for the word, see.
But there is a second word in the Greek language for the
word, see, and it is the word, horao, and horao, means to see
deeply. It is not
sight, but insight.
Let me give you
some examples of this Greek word.
Michelangelo, the famous sculpture, when he was in Florence,
Italy, saw an enormous piece of granite that no one knew what to do
with. Everyone would
walk by and notice that big piece of granite, but Michelangelo, with
his eyes, saw into the granite, and he saw the possibility
of the creation of his famous sculpture, David.
He went to work with his tools, and by the time he was
finished, he had created the most beautiful sculpture this earth has
ever seen, and it stands today in a cathedral in Florence, Italy.
Do you see? Do
you really see? It is the depth of sight.
Or, some years ago,
down at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, Washington, there
was a man by the name of Dr. Ernst Schwidder, who was chairman of
the art department at PLU. There
was a large hunk of wood there, some 18 inches by 18 inches by 15
feet. And students would walk by
and ask: “What is in
there in that big chunk of wood?”
The students didn’t see, but Dr. Schwidder saw.
He saw in that chunk of wood a Christ figure, with a hand
holding a cup of wine and another hand stretching gently out to
touch the world. The
artist could see deeply into the wood, and he could see the
possibility which now graces our sanctuary tonight. Do you see?
Or, some years ago,
when Jan and I were married and living down in Eugene, Oregon, back
in the years that we label, B.C., before children.
On Mondays, our day off, we would always go for hikes in the
woods. We would go down
to the Lowell Ranger Station, where Al Lang was the forest ranger.
We would visit the Lowell Ranger Station and Al would tell
the best hike available for the day.
But, sometimes, ever so occasionally, Al would come with us.
What Al, the forest ranger,
would see in the woods as we walked was absolutely
incredible. He saw so
much more than we ever thought of seeing.
The mushrooms. The types of trees.
The types of leaves. His
eyes were dancing at all that he saw, for he not only would merely
see, but he perceived so much more than we did.
It was the difference between sight and insight, between
blepo and horao.
Do you see what I
see, said the night wind to the little lamb?
(sung) Do you … see?
When you came to
church this evening, who did you see?
Did you see some old friends that you have known for decades,
some good old people that you feel very comfortable with?
Did you see some new friends, that you have known for the
past one, two or three years? Did you see a boyfriend or a
girlfriend? Who did you see this evening?
Or, did you also see the royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people set apart? Did
you see God’s people here this evening together in worship and
then God’s people sent out into the world in love? Did you see
God’s very own people here tonight, the hands and the heart and
the feet of God living and acting in the world, to transform it and
make it a better place to live? Did you see?
Did you…really see?
Do you see what I
Or when you come to
Holy Communion, do you see just a little cracker, a thimble of wine,
people walking to and from the altar rails to receive the bread and
wine? Or do you
see…that all of your sins are truly forgiven. Do you see…that
the sins of your husband or wife, your child, your friend, are
forgiven? Do you
see…that your own sins are forgiven and you finally can forgive
yourself and that may be the hardest thing in the world for you to
actually do? Do you see
that you can finally forgive yourself?
That God has forgiven you? Do you see? Do you truly see when you receive the Sacrament?
Do you see what I
And when you go to
work in a few days, and see all those people sitting at their desks,
looking somewhat like you. When you are jammed in a traffic mess
called a freeway and you are stuck, ever so stuck, in traffic.
When you are dodging shoppers with your shopping cart in a
super mall and the lines are a mile long.
When you see the families and children around the globe on
television and know how poor and starving they truly are.
Do you see? Do
you really see?
Do you see what I
Ah, Christmas is a
feast for the eyes. What
did you see this Christmas Eve when you saw those beautiful lights?
When we drove to the sanctuary this evening, we drove past
all those homes with all those colored lights, laughing and shining
and smiling at us. We
came into the sanctuary and saw all the candles brightly lit,
twinkling in the darkness. We will then go home later tonight, after the services, and
we will walk into our living room and turn off all the lights except
for the lights of the Christmas tree.
In all of this, did you see that all of the splendored lights
point to Jesus Christ, the light of the world? Did you see that
Christ is to be the guiding light of your life?
Did you see that when the world is darkness and when a
loved-one is placed in a grave of darkness, that there is a light
beckoning from the other side, inviting you and me to come and be
absorbed into the divine light? Do you see the glorious light of God
calling to us from the heavens?
Or how about
Christmas presents? How did you do this year?
How will you do this year?
I got some socks and underwear and golf balls and shirts and
neckties, somewhat like every year, along with a certain special
present. Did you see that underneath all the presents that were
exchanged this year; did you see the present of God himself for you?
Did you see the gift that Christ gave you?
Did you see that underneath all the presents that are
exchanged this year is the reminder that Christ is always a gift,
never earned, never deserved, but always freely given in love, like
any present? Did you
see? Or did you just
see colorfully wrapped material presents?
Did you see that
God has fulfilled his promises to you as he did to Simeon so many
years ago? God promised
Simeon to see the Christ child before he died. God was faithful to
old Simeon. Has God
been faithful to you? Has God fulfilled his promises to you?
Has God been faithful to you this day?
Has God been good to you, already this evening? Has God been
faithful to you in all the suffering that you have experienced in
this life? Has God been
faithful to you, like he was to old Simeon?
Do you see that? Do
you see that God is with you in all the circumstances
of your life? Do you
Do you see what I
Then life moves on
and we come to the very end of life, and there will be a
funeral. And at the end of most funerals, you will hear those
important words of Simeon, “O Lord, now let your servant depart in
peace, according to your promise.
For my eyes …have seen your salvation.”
There were two funerals in the life of our church this past
week, a father of a long time member, another funeral of a Laotian
immigrant that we resettled many years ago.
And as we came to the end of both funerals and as we
come to the conclusion of every funeral and as someday
we will come to the end of your funeral and mine, the words of the
liturgy will be read, the famous words of Simeon when he said:
“O Lord, let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have
seen your salvation which you have prepared for all people.”
And when the inevitability of the end of your life comes, and
when the inevitability of death comes to me, may the words of the
liturgy declare truthfully about us:
Lord, let your servant depart in peace, for his eyes have
seen, her eyes have …seen, the glory of the Lord.
Peace comes with seeing, with truly seeing that God is
faithful to his promises of everlasting life.
I love that
Christmas carol. It is only some 36 years old.
Some old favorite carols were composed more than a hundred
years ago. But the
words and music of this recent carol are now deeply imbedded
within me: (sung) “Do you see what I see, said the night wind to the little