Sermon 12/28/2014 Christmas 1

Christmas 1
12/28/14

Luke 2:25-40 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When
the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law,
28 Simeon took Him up in
his arms, praised God, and said:
29 Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised. 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation. 31 You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel. 33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.

 

Go in Peace
1. Like Simeon and Anna you have an encounter with Jesus
2. In faith you can be at peace

 

All little Johnny got from Grandma this Christmas was a piece of paper. It wasn’t even pretty paper like a Christmas card. It was just a dull grey sheet with lots of writing. There wasn’t even room to draw a picture on it. What good was such a paper to a five year old? As Johnny mumbled his thanks he almost missed what Grandma said about that paper. What was that about thousands of dollars? This paper would be worth that much some day? How? Little Johnny had never heard of stocks before but if Grandma was right, this piece of paper wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, it was the most expensive thing he would receive that Christmas! (From Daniel Habben)

What was your best gift thisChristmas? A new bike? Clothes? A bunch of stuff you don’t really need? For us who are here today, we know what the best part of Christmas was. Like Simeon and Anna, we had an encounter with the Christ child and like them, through faith, we can go in peace.

Listen again to Simeon’s comments: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and
to be a sign that will be opposed—
35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” And Luke tells us that Anna came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. How did they know so much about Jesus? From the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew the promises given to Abraham, David and others. They knew the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah and Malachi. They knew the Word so they knew Jesus. We, too, know Jesus the same way. We know him from the Word.

Simeon had never heard Jesus preach a sermon. Simeon had never seen him do a miracle. Simeon had not heard of that empty grave in Joseph’s garden. An ordinary Jew of that day, hearing what our text tells us, might well have said, “What kind of nonsense is this? How can this old man look at that poor, helpless, insignificant, little baby and say that is his salvation?”

He could say that because he knew the Scriptures. But we are told that he had a special revelation from the Holy Spirit. Somehow the Holy Spirit let him know that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. Luke tells us, Guided
by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law,
28 Simeon took Him up in his arms. I picture an old man getting the word that today’s the day.
I picture him half running pushing through the crowds, looking until he sees Jesus. We are not told that Anna had any kind of message from the Holy Spirit. How, then, did she know that Jesus was the promised Messiah? It’s likely that she had probably had many conversations with Simeon about the Messiah. After all, she was always at the Temple learning and serving. Simeon, too, would have been at the Temple every day wondering, “Is this the day?” So it’s very likely that Simeon share with her the promise God had given him and when she heard what Simeon said, she too knew that Jesus is the Christ child and what he meant for her and all believers.

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Perhaps you’re thinking that if only you had some kind of voice from God, it would really help your faith. If only someone would really find Noah’s ark or some other artifact that could prove the Bible true, then people would believe. Perhaps you have seen so many walk away from the gospel with an unbelieving heart and you think that if only there were some discovery to prove the gospel, people would have to believe.

But that’s not how the Holy Spirit works. Rather, he grabs hold of our dead, lifeless hearts and brings them to life through the power of the gospel. He enables us to see the love of God as we encounter Jesus in the Bible. But we need to do more than know the Bible. Simeon took Jesus up in his arms as if to say, “This is my Savior, my consolation, my hope in life and death.” So may it be with us. True faith is not content with just seeing Jesus. We want to embrace him as our Savior. We want to put our trust and confidence in him completely. We want to seize him by faith when we hear and read his Word.

Simeon said that he would cause the falling and rising of many. His point was that people can’t escape an encounter with the Christ-child. We can’t pack him away and ignore him like an unwanted Christmas present. We need to embrace him by faith. Either we embrace him by faith or reject him in unbelief. There is no middle ground with Jesus. But if we embrace him by faith, we need to recognize that life won’t always be easy.

Simeon said, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” That baby Simeon held in his arms would be a sign and a sword. Like a billboard, he would be a sign that everybody would notice. And what was that sign but the cross? And there is the sword, as well. His life’s destiny would be the cross of rejection on Calvary.

Our Lutheran forefathers sometimes spoke of the “back side of the gospel.” What does that mean? Martin Luther sums it up pretty well, “If you wish to be a Christian, know for a certainty that your Lord Jesus Christ, you, your teaching, and all your activity will not be pleasing to the world.” (Luther’s House Postil, Vol. 1, p. 161) There’s the backside of the gospel. While the gospel brings us salvation, it also brings us the hatred of the world. And there’s really nothing we can do about it. Again Luther said, “For many years I have pounded away at this block with diligence, thought about the matter, how I might preach about the Lord Jesus Christ to please everyone . . . But it can’t be done.” (p. 162)

If you try to remove the offense and obstacle of the gospel, then Christ is lost. So the gospel is a sword that not only pierced Mary’s soul with grief, but a sword that opens and exposes men’s hearts. Those who won’t believe the gospel show that they cannot bear to have their piety and goodness count for nothing. No matter how nice they may seem, their pride and self-righteousness won’t put up with the gospel.

But for those who believe, this child is salvation. Simeon said, Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised. 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation. 31 You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel Simeon could see well beyond what was visible. This child is no King, but a beggar, wrapped in rags. But Simeon sees in this child salvation, not just for him or his people, but the light of salvation for the whole world. It’s almost as if Simeon could hear the cries of this baby end in the cries of the man on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Simeon could see that all his sins were carried away by this baby in his arms. . Simeon could be released from his task of waiting. He could now go in peace.

That’s why we sing Simeon’s song after receiving Holy Communion. For at this table, in this meal, we too, like Simeon, not only hear, but also see, touch, and feel the promise of life God makes to us. And after receiving the promise from God in the bread and wine, we too are propelled to confident and courageous lives even in a world so marked by death and loss.

Once little Johnny learned what that grey piece of paper from Grandma was, he looked at it differently. He saw a precious gift and was reminded of his grandma’s love for him every time he looked at it. God’s gift of Jesus is more precious than stock in a successful company. In Bethlehem’s Babe we have a Savior from sin, a Savior who visits us again and again in the Lord’s Supper to personally grant forgiveness. Open your hearts to see this miracle and then, like Simeon, go in peace.

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