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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Dec 31, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN
The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this first Sunday After Christmas, Luke 2:22-40. There we read these words:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "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." And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
Well, it's over for another year, Christmas, that is. After the parties, the food, the gifts and the services, the days after Christmas are characterized by leftovers, crumpled wrapping paper, and a distinct lack of energy on the Sunday after. The holidays are winding down; now comes the rest of a long, cold winter
Plans aside, what will happen to you as 2018 begins and continues? There may be lots of good in store: Grandchildren, a promotion, true love, stability, graduation. There may be unwanted troubles: strife at work or unemployment, family disagreements, a call from the doctor because he wants to run some more tests.
What will happen to you from here? You have some plans, but you don't know much for sure. So, really, what can you be certain of?
A man of mystery was walking in the temple; I say this because we don't know much about him. We know his name was Simeon, but that's about it. Traditionally, he's pictured as a wizened, elderly man who has led a good life of many years; but we don't know. He could be a nineteen-year-old, still working on a full beard.
Was he married? Widowed? Healthy? Ailing? Did he have kids? Grandkids? A good life? Bad?
We don't know. The Bible doesn't tell us. It tells us his name is Simeon. Well, the Bible also says that Simeon "was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." That's why he was at the temple-he was going to see the Messiah.
Suddenly, He appeared. The long-awaited Messiah was there; not just a human being, but the Lord had suddenly come to His temple. The Son of God had become flesh to be the Savior of the world, and He was making His first incarnate visit to His Father's house. The prophecy was fulfilled! The Messiah was on the temple grounds.
And nobody noticed. Nobody cared.
Simeon did. He knew, because the Holy Spirit had told him. He confidently walked up to the Messiah and His entourage. He boldly took hold of the Savior. And there, out in the middle of all the temple activity, he sang so that everyone who hears will know:
"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."
The Lord Himself had come to His temple with salvation; He had come to redeem His people. It was a glorious, divine truth; so Simeon sang the song of praise.
Now. Since they did not know what was going on, it's quite likely that others might have thought he was nuts. Nuts or blasphemous, take your pick. Temple-goers had come here to worship the almighty Lord who made the heavens and the earth. There on the grounds, Simeon was holding a 40-day-old baby in his arms, guarded by the formidable entourage of, well, a poor-looking husband and wife.
Oh, Simeon wasn't concerned with the Holy of Holies, where the Lord dwells in His glory. He was peering at the Baby in his arms, and singing the strangest of lullabies: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word "
Like the Baby had words. Like the Baby was in a position to send Simeon along. As if the Baby was the Lord.
We talked about this at Christmas, too: If you go by your eyes alone, you're likely to miss the Savior. Go by what the Holy Spirit says into your ears, and there He is. People who are looking for some glorious display of power to prove the presence of God will hustle by the Baby and keep on looking.
But by faith, Simeon knew. The flesh and blood he cradled in his arms was and is the Son of God incarnate. He was Immanuel, "God with us," present with His people as God and man. He was with His people to bring peace, salvation, light, revelation and glory.
Don't let the hairless head and the tiny toes fool you: This is the Lord of heaven and earth. And though that toothless mouth couldnt form words yet, He had been speaking from eternity. He was there.
By faith, Simeon acknowledged His Savior and rejoiced in His salvation. He embraced the Word made flesh, and he was forgiven for all of his sins by the Baby Jesus. That's why he could depart in peace.
And what happened to Simeon then? We're back to, "We don't know," for he disappears from Scripture. Traditionally, we assume that he's an old man who died and was called to glory soon after. On the other hand, he could have forty years of life left before he died. Maybe a good life, maybe a terrible one by human standards.
But Simeon departed in peace because God is faithful: He had kept His promises made through the prophets. The Virgin had conceived and borne a Son, and His name is Immanuel. That Lord had come to His temple, where Simeon had held and beheld Him. And the prophecies would continue to be fulfilled.
The Messiah would make the blind see and the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame leap for joy. He would be stricken, smitten and afflicted for your iniquities. He would be the cursed man on the tree, His bones out of joint and His robe gambled away.
All this would take place so that other promises of God would be kept: Promises of pardon and peace, double helpings of grace for the penitent people of God. You see, dear friends, God is faithful, and the promises will be kept; that is why Simeon departed in peace.
He didn't depart to peace; it is not that he faced a rosy, sublime sort of life because he had held the Savior. Whatever other trials lay ahead, he still faced death. He was still in this sinful world. But he was at peace because God is faithful. He had sent the Savior. He had not forsaken Simeon, but had come to redeem him.
Whatever Simeon would face, he would be at peace with God. The Lord had kept His promises, and Simeon knew the end of the story. The end of the story is life everlasting, because the Son had come.
So, taking stock right now, this is what you know about you. You've made it this far. And you have no idea what is going to happen to you tomorrow; even with all the careful planning, December 29 is still up for grabs. You just don't know.
Not knowing can lead to all sorts of temptations. You'll be tempted to worry; and while a godly concern is good, worry too often turns into doubt of God's will and faithfulness. Youll be tempted to be disappointed when things don't go as you desire; the greater sin here is that you vastly prefer your will over that of the Lord's, who truly works all things for your good.
Sinners don't like not knowing, because not knowing means you have to live by trusting. Faith isn't natural; in fact, it's impossible unless it is given by God. But God has given each of you faith, faith by and in a blessed truth that you do know.
Today, you stand with Simeon because you too have beheld your Savior. The Holy Spirit has revealed this to you-not through some mystical vision or writing in the sky, but by His holy, inspired Word. His Word announces to you that the Baby in Simeon's arms grew up and bore your sins to the cross. That same body was pierced and that blood was shed before He was placed in the tomb.
That same Savior, with the same body and blood, rose again on the third day. And before Jesus ascended into heaven, He spoke to His disciples of teaching and baptizing. He spoke of Word and Sacrament, and promises, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
It is He who washed you clean of sin in the waters of Holy Baptism. It is He, the Word made flesh, who is present in His Word when it is proclaimed. It is He who says to you, "Take and eat, this is My body take and drink, this is My blood, for the forgiveness of sins."
The same body and blood that Simeon held and beheld. And that went to the cross. And rose again. And ascended into heaven.
Like Simeon, you have beheld your Savior again today. What does tomorrow hold? You cannot know. You must commend tomorrow to the Lord, trusting that He will indeed work all things for your good. He has promised to do so for His servants, even as He promises that His Son died for you.
You don't know much about what lies ahead, but you do know that you are His-and so you know the end of the story. Therefore, even now, you can depart in peace: Christ Is Risen
|Christ Is Risen|
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