Sermon for 1st Sunday after Christmas – December 27, 2020

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. (Luke 2:22-40)

Everything here in Luke 2 cries out “fulfillment.” Jesus is the fulfillment of OT Israel. He is the Son of Israel, the Son of Abraham, Son of David, the true Davidic King. He is prophet and priest. He is everything promised of Israel in one man. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple on the 40th day, that was precisely 490 days since the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple. 70 times 7 days. Perfect prophetic fulfillment, as Gabriel had told Daniel. That’s no coincidence; it’s fulfillment.

Anna also speaks of fulfillment. She had been married a brief seven years, and now she was 84, 12 times 7. The number of her life’s years bears witness that she is living in the time of fulfillment. Together with Simeon, she waited and watched in the temple for the coming Messiah. She remembered the passage from Malachi: “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple, the messenger of the covenant whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

And so these Simeon and Anna watched and waited; the prophet and the prophetess, embodying OT Israel. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Messiah. Usually the case is you find out you don’t have long to live. It’s the opposite for Simeon. He wasn’t going to die until he had laid his eyes on the promised One of Israel. That wasn’t so much a death sentence as it was a life’s sentence. Every day Simeon would awaken and wonder, “Is this the day?” Everyone who came to the temple would make him wonder, “Is this the one?”

Then one day Mary and Joseph came to the temple with Jesus, 40 days old. It was their purification day. Stop right there. Purification day? For what? Mary was a virgin, and her Child was the sinless Son of God. What need was there for any purification. This was a pure a birth as there could possibly be. Ah, but here’s the Gospel. Whatever Jesus does, and whatever is done to Him, is to fulfill all righteousness, to fulfill the Law. At eight days He was circumcised under the Law. At forty days, He was brought to the temple, in accordance with the Law of Moses. He has joined the human race, not only sharing in our flesh and bone, but sharing in our burden, the burden of being sinners under the Law.

It is also His redemption day. Think about it. The Redeemer is brought to the temple to be redeemed. Every first-born male was holy to the Lord. Even the animals. They had to be redeemed, bought back with blood. The Redeemer is redeemed by the blood of two doves, the poor man’s sacrifice. “He was poor for ours sake, so that by His poverty we might become rich.” It’s all there already in place – Jesus the Substitute, Jesus the Redeemer, holy to the Lord, dedicated to die in our place. And all of it, before Jesus can utter a word or even walk. Like a baby brought to Baptism, the Lord of all must be carried to His temple for His first appearance.

When Simeon saw the holy family and looked at this child, his old heart must have skipped a beat as the Spirit testified to his spirit that this was the promised One, the One he had been waiting for all these years. He gathers the little One in his tired arms and lifts his cataract-blurred eyes to heaven, seeing clearly through the eyes of faith. And he prays:

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, A Light to lighten the Gentiles
And the glory of Thy people Israel.

You know that hymn. You sing it almost every Sunday after the Lord’s Supper. You sing it with Simeon as you receive the Body and Blood of the promised One, His gift to you. As genuine a presence as when Simeon held that sacred Baby in his arms. You pray with Simeon. “Let your servant depart in peace, according to Thy word.” I can die now, in peace. That’s what it means. Simeon was waiting to die.

The cross looms large of this passage. Did you hear it? “Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

This Child, embraced by Simeon and Anna, of whom the prophets of Israel spoke, would be rejected by Israel. “He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” His coming precipitates a crisis of faith and unbelief, of rising to faith in Him or falling in unbelief against Him. There is no middle ground, no neutral position when it comes to Jesus. You either trust Him or you don’t. You can’t refashion Him or reinvent Him. You receive Him as He is – your Christ and Lord and Savior, or you reject Him in unbelief.

This Child comes with a sword and a cross. Mary would live to see her Son crucified. She would stand at the foot of the cross and watch her first-born die. The sword would pierce her gentle soul too. What a burden that must have been for her to bear! She knew that this Child did not belong to her; she was there in the temple to redeem Him back from the Lord with a sacrifice. But she knew that she could only have Him for a little while. He had come to save His people from their sins.

The Child of the manger is born with blood on His hands. No escaping. It’s the blood of our sin, our rebellion against God, our atheism, our rejection. For this cute little Baby all swaddled and mangered on Christmas morning is a warrior destined to do battle with the darkness, the devil and his demons, with Death itself.

The work of redemption is bloody work. It isn’t with gold or silver that we are redeemed from sin, death, and the Law. But we are redeemed by Christ’s holy precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.

Christmas joy inevitably gives way to reality. Presents are unwrapped, the tree eventually gets put out on the burn pile or is packed away, the lights grow dim, we return to our business as usual whatever that may be. We know not what the coming days, weeks, and months will bring. But we know this much. Christ is born for. You.

In that way, we’re all 21st century Simeons and Annas in the temple, watching, waiting for that Day when Christ’s salvation becomes visible to our resurrected eyes. And today, like old Simeon and Anna in the temple, we are given to embrace the Christ-Child in Word and Sacrament, and having embraced Him in the arms of faith, we are prepared for the future, because this Child of Mary, this Baby of Bethlehem is our future. Israel’s glory, our Light and our Life.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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