Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Source of Our Peace

First Sunday after Christmas

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Luke 2:22-40

In today’s Gospel reading we see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus going to the temple. We also see two people there, Simeon and Anna. We have come to the end of the year and here we find ourselves in the house of God. We can learn from these five people in the temple for our own life and for our worship life.

The first thing we see is Jesus being brought to the temple in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. We saw in the Old Testament reading how God prescribed His Law that the firstborn is to be consecrated to Him. The reason God does this is for a way of reminding His people that He has saved them. He delivered them in a mighty way from their bondage to the Egyptians. His delivering them then into the Promised Land is a powerful display that He will deliver all His people of all time from the bondage of sin and into the Promised Home of heaven.

That’s what this is all about, Joseph and Mary obeying the Law of God, bringing Jesus into the temple. He certainly didn’t need to purified, He’s without sin. And yet, He did obey the Law of God in perfection, something we have not done. In this way Jesus came to be our Savior, and He was even in the process of saving us as an infant. Because of His righteousness before God the Heavenly Father, we are consecrated, made holy and acceptable in His sight.

But then we also meet this man who is there, Simeon. We learn much from Simeon because the Holy Spirit had a hand in him being part of this amazing plan of salvation which was unfolding before Mary and Joseph’s eyes. A prophecy had been given to Simeon, and we might think that that would be a pretty great thing to happen to us. Luke tells us that “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Wouldn’t that be great? It sure was for Simeon. He expressed gratefulness to God for such a privilege. The words that He spoke were preserved, in fact, by the very Holy Spirit who granted him this gift. And you can probably guess who they were preserved for: you and me.

That’s why we sing them often after we receive the Lord’s Supper. We’ll do so today when we come shortly to the altar of God to receive the very body and blood of Christ. Because this promise that was given to Simeon is also God’s promise to us. We also may depart in peace according the Word of the Lord. For in receiving the bread and wine that has been consecrated by Christ’s very Word, our eyes, too, have seen His salvation which He has prepared in the presence of all peoples.

You remember when the shepherds spoke to Mary and Joseph what they had received from the angels? Mary and Joseph were amazed. Here again, as they keep hearing startling things about their son, they marvel at the words of Simeon. Isn’t that the way it is with us also? Aren’t we continually amazed by the love of Christ? That He would die for us? That He would break the bondage of death by stepping forth from His tomb. That He would humble Himself for us by being born as we are. That He would continue to offer Himself to us in His Holy Supper.

We are privileged today as Simeon was two thousand years ago. We receive this very day, the last day of the year, the body and blood of Christ at this altar, in the House of God. Today He consecrates us. He breaks the bonds sin and guilt hold on us. He strikes down our enemy, Satan, in the body and blood that was given and shed at Calvary that He offers to you today.

What does this mean for us? It means that at the close of this year we can see what lies ahead in the year to come. And not only 2007 but what God has prepared for us eternally. Simeon spoke a specific blessing to Mary. Anna spoke generally to all there who would hear. They were both at the temple. And we all here know that there’s plenty of encouragement we need among ourselves in the faith. We need to continually be reminded of God’s love for us, which is why we need to continue to be here in the coming year. We need to continue to receive God’s love as He delivers it to us in the Supper Christ prepares for us.

At the last hour of our life we will say with Simeon, “Let your servant depart in peace.” Because He always fulfills His Word. When He says He’ll save us, He’ll save us. There of course is an element of the new year we don’t know. We don’t know when our last hour will come. It may come in the coming year; it may be far off. But whatever is in His holy will, we may depart from this temple of God here today in peace. The Gifts of God having touched our lips. The promises of God ready to spring forth from our lips.

We don’t know who all we’ll run across in the new year. Many old faces, some new. All need to hear. All need to know what Simeon rejoiced in. What Mary and Joseph marveled at. What Anna delighted in sharing with others. May our new year be filled with the blessing that God gave in this often overlooked event of the infant Jesus going to the temple. God grant you His peace that surpasses understanding because of and through His Son. Amen.

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