Sermon: “Where Jesus Locates Himself For You”
LSB Series B
First Sunday after Christmas; December 27, 2020
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Merry Christmas! (Pause)
I have told you this before, and I will tell you this again. In fact, it won’t be the last time I tell you. Jesus is the worst at playing hide ‘n’ go seek. He tells you exactly where He is located. He wants you to find Him, and keep finding Him until death parts you from this world. And then, you will see Him for all eternity with your very own eyes.
Jesus Christ locates Himself ‘for you’ in His Word and Sacrament. You have been encouraged for weeks now to take part in the new Discipleship Challenge known as Connected in Christ. This is an opportunity for you to join with fellow saints of Zion to read through God’s Word over the course of two years. This is a great opportunity to see Jesus as He reveals Himself to you and to build on your knowledge of God’s Word that you hear here in God’s house.
Weekly, we offer here at Zion the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Into your body, you receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, the ‘resurrected’ body and blood of Jesus Christ. As you dine on this holy delicacy, your sins are forgiven, your faith is strengthened, and you are assured that you too shall be raised to life everlasting.
These gifts of Word and Sacrament are located for you where Jesus locates Himself. In His house. Now it should be said that these are challenging times during this pandemic. There are those that are not able to join us yet in the house of the Lord. Be assured that God’s Word is still being delivered through the livestream to your homes.
But we all need to be aware that the ‘goal’ is not to stay worshipping this way, but to once again have all the saints of our congregation gather again in the house of the Lord. Scripture tells us not to neglect meeting together, but rather to draw near to where Christ is located (Hebrews 10).
That is what we see in our text for today. Luke’s Gospel reveals to us two faithful followers of Jesus. One is Simeon, the other is Anna.
Simeon was righteous and devout, just waiting on pins and needles for Jesus’ arrival. In some fashion, perhaps a vision, we don’t know, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. So, where did he go? He went to the temple. And low and behold, on the day of Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation, there He was.
Overwhelmed. Ecstatic. Elated. These words don’t even begin to grasp the joy that came over Simeon when he saw the holy child. There in the temple was the very One who as Scripture tells us was the ‘temple’ that would one day be destroyed, and three days later be raised again. There was the Christ, who would die and rise for the sake of all people.
Well, he just couldn’t help himself. Like a grandma who hasn’t seen her grandbabies in ages, Simeon went up and took that child in his arms and perhaps even hoisted him up in the air. What a sight! As I envision it, there was Simeon lifting up the Messiah like the baboon did in Lion King who lifted up Simba for all the other animals to see. Just like that lion cub would be king, so Jesus is our King…King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
Out of Simeon’s mouth come words that we have heard and uttered before again and again. We know them as the Nunc Dimittis. We speak or sing these words in response to our having just dined on the body and blood of Christ. As our veins now coarse with the blood of Christ, we have only to let out a song of praise.
That is, after all, what worship is all about. As we gather in the house of the Lord and receive His gifts, we have only to respond in praise. Again and again, God gives to us. It’s like Christmas every week here in God’s house. He just can’t help but give His gifts. And as we receive them, in faith, we respond in praise and thanksgiving.
Just think about it. He comes to us in the Invocation as we call upon His name and we remember our baptism. Then we respond by confessing our sins. He then gives us His holy absolution, forgiving us of our sins. We respond in prayer and praise. Then He comes to us in His Word through the Scripture readings, and we respond by confessing our faith in the creed. He comes to us in the sermon, then we return to Him our prayers and our offerings. He comes to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. We respond with thanks and praise. And then He gets the last word with the blessing.
Back and forth the pattern goes, but all of the gifts flow from Him first. Then in faith, we respond, where even our response that comes from our lips is a gift for us. Without what He gives, we would have nothing of worth to offer. We are sinners after all.
So it was for Simeon as well. As a mere sinner, he had nothing to offer this child he now held in his arms. The only words he could speak were not his own. They were a gift of the Spirit. A gift that has now been passed on to us to speak each time we have held and received Christ in His body and blood.
“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.”
The same joy that penetrated the heart of Simeon also penetrated the heart of Anna. We don’t know much about her other than what Scripture says here in this brief account. She was a prophetess and she was a widow. And for years upon years, day after day, she had been returning to the temple. And when she saw the Christ child with her own eyes, there that day, the Spirit of God worked a response in her as well.
Her response is what we are called upon to do each time we walk out those doors: to share the good news of great joy that is for all people…to be like the shepherds who saw the Christ-child in the manger wrapped in swaddling cloths and then made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
That is what Anna did. She began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. As she had been filled with Christ to overflowing, she had only to share with others this peace that passes all understanding. We are called upon to do the same.
As we look at Simeon and Anna’s response to the birth of Jesus, we are to note a commonality. Both of them go to where Jesus locates Himself. Both of them, in the power of the Spirit go to the temple.
That is what happens from the day of our baptism on. In the power of the Spirit, we are led to be in the Divine Worship Service, where God serves us His gifts. God directs us to follow the third commandment for our benefit: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
To avoid worship is to despise preaching and the Word of God. It is to miss out on the gifts that God gives. None of us would ever dream of missing out on the gifts that are given out at Christmas. Why would we be that way with what God gives in worship?
This child, this little baby boy, is our Savior. When Simeon held Jesus in his arms and hoisted Him in the air and spoke the Nunc Dimittis, it says that his father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Do we marvel at what God gives? Or have we lost that wonder and excitement? Has the joy of Jesus at Christmas already worn off? If that is the case, we have missed the point entirely of His birth. It is said that every Sunday is a little Easter. Well, every Sunday is also a little Christmas as well as we gather to receive the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.
This child is the Son of God who came from heaven to earth, and it was all for us, and for our comfort and consolation. He didn’t have to come and face the rejection that He did from those that would oppose Him. He didn’t have to journey through a life of mockery and ridicule. He didn’t have to allow Himself to face an unfair trial and an unjust crucifixion. He didn’t have to do any of that.
It’s kind of like when we open a present, and we are taken aback and say, “You shouldn’t have. That’s way too much! You didn’t have to do that!”
And with Jesus, we would be right. He didn’t have to do what He did. But as much as it cost Him, He chose to do it anyway. Willingly and voluntarily, He gave His life for us.
Thirty some years later, Mary would look up and see her Son hoisted up in the air once again. Only this time it would not be Simeon’s arms holding Him there. This time it would be the nails of a Roman soldiers driven through His hands and feet. No Nunc Dimittis would be uttered, only the jeers of those that passed by.
Week after week, we come to behold what Mary beheld. This baby boy would one day be lifted up on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And what more can we do than offer Him thanks and praise for all He has done?
And so, like Simeon and Anna, we come to the Divine Service to where Jesus locates Himself so that we too may see our salvation and depart in heavenly peace. Merry Christmas!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.