Second Sunday after Christmas January 5, 2020
99, 95, 61, 103:3-6
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart that it may be, a quiet chamber, kept for Thee.”
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&8221;) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, 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.
Dear fellow redeemed in the Christ-child, who was born under the Law, and from infancy was faithfully keeping that Law that we might receive the adoption as sons, grace and peace to you in His Name.
Leftovers! This is the time of year when fridges are full of them. Perhaps it is turkey, ham, or Swedish meatballs, and maybe a little bit of pie. Have you ever noticed what happens to your memory when you heat up those leftovers? As we smell the food, our mind is instantly taken back to the meal when it was first enjoyed—possibly surrounded by friends and family, or maybe just in the simplicity and quietness of your own home. Leftovers often leave us wanting to go back and enjoy the original helpings one more time.
Today, we find ourselves some 11 days after Christmas and 5 days after New Year’s. Perhaps we are a bit tired and worn out from the height of joy that we had on Christmas and New Year’s. Or, perhaps we long to go back to the original helpings of Christmas joy less than two weeks ago.
Our text for today is long, but it is plump full of goodies. There is way too much goodness from the Lord in these 28 verse for us to treat everything in depth. Instead, let us graze from the buffet before us and enjoy some Christmas leftovers as we rejoice with Simeon, marvel with Mary and Joseph, and join Anna in giving thanks and witnessing to others about Jesus’ arrival. Rejoice at this Christmas feast from the Lord, because He intends it for you!
As our text begins, Luke has jumped ahead 40 days from Jesus’ birth to His presentation in the Temple. Mary and Joseph have made the 6 mile trip from their temporary home in Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem with the Christ-child. They did this because they wanted to be faithful in keeping the commandments of God for Mary regarding childbirth, and the birth of a firstborn male child.
Luke reports that at this time in Jerusalem there was a godly believer by the name of Simeon. Simeon had been waiting for the arrival of the Savior is referred to as the “consolation” or comfort of Israel. Like all Old Testament believers before him, Simeon had been waiting for the coming of the Promised Savior. God the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that before he would die, he would see the arrival of the Lord’s Christ, the Anointed One.
That brings us to the unfolding of the events at the center of our text. The Spirit directed Simeon to Mary and Joseph, and 40 day old baby Jesus, as they were fulfilling their duties in the Temple. And there He was! The Consolation of Israel had arrived. This is the moment all Old Testament believers had been waiting for.
Behold, Simeon’s joy! Even though he missed out on the birthday celebration of the Christ-child, it doesn’t diminish his joy. He takes baby Jesus in his arms, praises God and says those familiar words of the Nunc Dimittis, words which the church has sung down through the millennia after receiving the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion: “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 the glory to your people Israel.”
Even though it is just a little baby that Simeon holds, just over five weeks old, that is not what Simeon sees with his eyes of faith. In this baby boy, Simeon sees the fulfillment of all Old Testament promises. Though it would be 33 year before the cross of Calvary, Simeon sees Jesus’ work of salvation as having been already completed. Though most saw just a little baby in the Temple that day, aged Simeon sees His Savior from sin and is ready to die in peace.
Let us join Simeon in his rejoicing. Like Simeon, the Lord has told you where you can find Him. You can find Him in His Word. Though many see Holy Baptism as simple water only, you know that through this gracious water of life Jesus has covered you with His holiness and washed away your sins. In Holy Communion, many see just simple bread and wine, but your Savior has told you that you can find Him in, with, and under the bread and wine as He gives you His body and His blood. He has told you that you can find Him in our midst as we assemble together in His name.
Like a forty day old baby, though these things may look like much, our faith sees hears the word of the Lord and knows that He is present. Through the simple Word and Sacrament, the Lord’s Christ comes to you. He announces that He has accomplished your salvation, He has taken the load of your sin on Himself, and by His death on the cross, removed it forever. He has announced peace between you and almighty God through His resurrection. Even though Christmas has passed for so many, let us continue to rejoice with Simeon. Having heard, seen, and tasted the Lord’s goodness, we can say with Simeon, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your Word!”
In Luke 2, we hear a lot about people “marveling” about the Christ-child. On Christmas, we heard that all who heard the message of the shepherd, “marveled at those things which were told them.” Here at the Temple, 40 days after Jesus was born, we find more marveling. Verse 33, “His father and his mother marveled at what was said about Him.” Isn’t it rather surprising to find Mary and Joseph marveling at what was said about Jesus? After all, they had already had angels speak to them and shepherds show up at the stable in Bethlehem.
While it may seem surprising, remember how much time has passed. This is 40 days removed from the shepherds, the stable, and the manger. They have had 40 days of taking care of a newborn. 40 days of nursing every couple of hours and changing diapers. In those 40 days it was probably easy to forget about the amazing events of that first night in Bethlehem. After all, how many of us are still marveling about Christmas on February 2nd?
And so they marvel. And notice what causes them to marvel. They don’t marvel in awe at how beautiful baby Jesus looks, they marvel at “what was said about Him.” They marvel to hear someone filled with the Holy Spirit speaking of this baby as the Savior of all people! They marvel to hear that this Baby is the light of the Gentiles and the bright spot of glory for the entire Israelite people!
Let us continue to marvel with them, whether it is 14 days or 40 days after Christmas. Keep marveling at what is said about the Lord Jesus. Marvel that Jesus is the God-man, who came from heaven to be our Brother. Marvel that this little Baby in Simeon’s arm has came into the world for the purpose of bearing our sins and our sorrow, and taking them all away. Marvel that by His wounds we are healed. Marvel He has sanctified and cleansed us from all our iniquities. Marvel that He was born to set us free from our sin and from hell. Marvel at the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) Marvel that He left Paradise to open Paradise for us. Marvel beyond December 24 and 25 at what is said about Jesus!
The fifth person we are introduced to in our text, is someone that some of you can relate to in a very real way. Her name is Anna. She is 84 years old. She is a widow, who had only been married for seven years when her husband died. What did this widow do with her time? “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and praying day and night.” Like Simeon, Anna was a faithful Old Testament believer. Though she had lost her husband many years ago, Anna spent her years as a Christian widow worshiping the Lord!
And like Simeon, she knew nothing of the angels, shepherds, or the manger. There was no “Glory to God in the highest” moment, but only the Baby that Simeon is holding in His arms. Verse 38, “And coming up 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.” Though Anna missed out on the first Christmas, that didn’t stop her from enjoying these Christmas left-overs. This believer knew that the promised Savior of the world had arrived. What does she do with her left-overs? Anna gives thanks and like the shepherds of Christmas, tells others about the Savior’s arrival.
Let us join widow Anna in giving thanks and spreading the good news. “Joy to the world, the Lord HAS COME!” Give thanks that God loved you and gave you His only begotten Son! Give thanks that like Simeon and Anna, with the eyes of faith God has given you, you have beheld your Savior from sin. And spread the good news that the joy of Christmas is not over. Tell your neighbor or friend that is depressed that the holidays are over already, that the true purpose of Christmas, the birth of the Savior, brings joy to your life every day—even though, like Anna, you may find yourself as an 84 year old widow. Let us give thanks with Anna, and spread the Good News, even after Christmas!
I know people that say they enjoy leftovers almost more than the first time the food was served. They say the flavors are richer and there is a wider verity of goodies. In our text we find all that and more. We are reminded of the true, lasting joy of Christmas is not in the earthly trappings and visual feasts. It is found exactly where Simeon found it, in the Lord’s Christ. It is in seeing the salvation God has won for us through the Christ-child. It is rejoicing that the consolation or comfort has come. It is marveling at all the amazing things that have been said about Jesus. It is giving thanks and sharing the Christ-child with others. What a feast the Lord has prepared for us! May we continue to give thanks, rejoice, marvel, and witness that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners!
“Glory to God in highest heaven, Who unto us His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth A glad new year to all the earth!”
Thanks be to God. Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.