Printable PDF: 12-31-2017 Christmas 1 Sermon
Vicar Bence ~ 12/31/17 ~ Christmas 1 ~ Luke 2:25-40
The wait is over. The Prince of Peace has come!
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Just like that it’s gone. Christmas is over. You spend all year looking forward to it and just like that it’s gone in a flash. Visiting families are heading home, the leftovers are dwindling, the Christmas belly is beginning to shrink, and the mass erasing of Christmas movies on the DVR has begun. Christmas is officially over. With the joy that Christmas brings, we wish that it would never end. But we are reminded year after year that this beautiful holiday, like the rest, will come to a pass and we will begin our wait for next year’s Christmas, and we begin to count down the days. With the passing of every day we grow in excitement to experience a time of such joy another time. The wait for next Christmas has begun.
In our text for today we hear the story of Anna and Simeon. Two people who had to wait a long time just to celebrate the first Christmas. We see in both of their responses that the wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth is so worth it. They also remind us that the joy of Christ’s birth is not limited to a week or a month, but it stays with us throughout the entire year. Because we know that the wait is over! The Prince of Peace has come. He’s come to bring salvation for all and to pay the ransom for redemption.
- To Bring Salvation for All.
This is actually the only place that Anna and Simeon are mentioned in the Bible, so everything we can definitively say about them is found in these verses. Concerning Simeon, we are told that he is a righteous and devout man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. This consolation of Israel goes back to the fall into sin. The promise God made following the fall that he would send a Savior to crush Satan’s head has been Israel’s comfort every day since. We are also told that the Holy Spirit was on Simeon, and he had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw this promise fulfilled. This conversation between the Holy Spirit is known as direct revelation. We are not sure how these things were revealed to Simeon, but we know and trust that the message came straight from God to him. God promised Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah with his own two eyes. Simeon wholeheartedly trusted in this promise and lived his life faithfully waiting for it to be completed. He was declared righteous before God through his faith in the promise and showed that he was devout as he lived his life preparing to see the coming Savior. Our text for today tells us about the very day that Simeon saw this promise fulfilled.
We are told that Simeon, moved by the Holy Spirit, went into the temple courts the same time that Mary and Joseph were bringing in baby Jesus. Why were Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus at the temple that day? Earlier in the chapter we are told that the time had come for the purification rites required by the law to be fulfilled. Mary and Joseph, two devout Jews, were there to fulfill the required things of the law. After already having had Jesus circumcised on the eighth day, Mary and Joseph headed to the temple to fulfill the rest of the requirements. Among these requirements was the redemption or presentation of the firstborn. This presentation took place to remind us that we are not our own but God’s. The parents would present their son to the Lord and make an offering of thanks to God, who gave them such a gift. You may be asking yourself why Jesus had to do this. Why would he have to be presented before God, if he was God? Why would he have to do all these seemingly “pointless” steps required by the law if he was God and was above the law? The answer can be found in the last of the rites that was completed that day. Included in the presentation of the firstborn was the naming of the child. This was the time the baby would be given his name. Remember the name that the angel gave to Joseph to name their child? Jesus, which means “he saves.” Jesus, being true God and perfect didn’t need to fulfill the requirements of the law for his own sake, but since he came here to be our substitute, to put himself under law for us, to keep that law perfectly for us; he subjected himself to every requirement. Even as a baby, he is “saving us” just as his name announces.
Filled with joy Simeon takes this child in his hands. He knows that he is looking into the eyes of the Messiah for whom he had been waiting. Filled with joy he began to praise God in song. Does this song sounds familiar to you at all? “Lord now let 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 people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” This song is known as the Nunc Dimittis or Song of Simeon. We traditionally sing it following the Lord’s Supper. Because even though you may not have held baby Jesus in your hands like Simeon, in the Lord’s Supper you are holding the very body and blood that saved you. Like Simeon you have seen God’s promise fulfilled. You have held the body and blood that paid the price for your salvation. As you depart from the Lord’s Supper you have comfort knowing all of your sins are forgiven. They have been laid at the feet of the cross and paid for by Jesus. Like Simeon, you are at peace. As you depart you can sing the song of joy with Simeon that you have seen your Savior face to face and can now depart in peace knowing that all your sins are forgiven. Jesus has come to bring salvation for all people.
- To Pay the Ransom for Redemption
Our text tells us that Simeon was not the only one who would meet Jesus that day. We hear of a widow named Anna who would meet him as well. We are told that Anna was a prophetess, or a female prophet. She was one sent by God to speak his Word to his people. Anna was one of the few female prophets, like Miriam and Deborah, that God sent to preach his word. Anna lived her faith just as Simeon did. Following the death of her husband she spent every day in the temple serving God. Unlike Simeon, we are not told that Anna was promised to see the Savior before she would die. This didn’t stop Anna from serving the Lord. For decades, she spent her days doing the same thing; fasting and praying, fasting and praying, fasting and praying. What on earth could have led Anna to faithfully do this day after day for so many years? Anna was faithfully trusting in the promise. She grasped onto the promise of a Messiah to come who would be the redemption for all people. She spent her life serving God, trusting that he would fulfill his promise.
What a faithful life Anna lived for so long. She spent decades serving God before the event that happened in our text for today. Not hours, not days, not weeks, not years, but decades!! She was not the one who would declare when Jesus would come, but she had to trust in God’s plan and promise that he would send his Son at the proper time. Anna’s patience is quite astonishing to us. Unlike Anna, when things don’t go according to our timeline, we quickly lose patience. We lose patience when we have to wait a couple months for the newest blockbuster movie to come out. We lose patience when we see presents wrapped under the tree with our names on them and are reminded that we have to wait to open them. Truth be told, we barely have the patience to wait for a couple minutes for something. We lose patience when the McDonalds cashier tells us at the drive through that we have to pull ahead to wait for our fries to be done. It isn’t hard for us to think of a time we have lost patience recently. Can you think of a time you lost patience with those around you? Or maybe you lost patience carrying some kind of burden for an extended period of time. Have you gotten frustrated when the major things in life didn’t unfold exactly according to your own timeline? Patience while we wait for things is tough. Anna’s life shows us what it means to be patient and trust in God. She waited, knowing that God’s plan was better than hers. God’s timing is perfect. We see in our text that the wait was worth it. We flee from our sinful nature which tells us otherwise, and run to God’s Word which reminds us he will work all things out at the proper time for our good.
As Anna spent another day waiting in the temple she would soon realize that this day would not be like the rest. This day would not just be filled with fasting and praying to God but seeing God face to face. On this day Anna held the baby she had been serving for decades and she knew that every minute she spent waiting and serving was worth it. Can you imagine the joy in Anna’s heart as she held baby Jesus? Maybe you have had a sense of similar joy as you held a newborn child. Maybe you have had the privilege of holding one of the beautiful babies born to our congregation and experienced the joy of such a great blessing. I remember back to one of my first weeks here where I got to hold baby Paisley Greening and pour the new lifegiving water of baptism on her head. Or maybe you can remember the joy of holding your own child for the first time. The joy that you experienced having waited for so long and getting to hold that baby in your arms. It is a joy that words cannot explain. The joy that we feel during those times fails in comparison to the joy in Anna’s heart as she held baby Jesus that day. Because Anna knew that this baby was no ordinary baby. This baby would be the redemption of Israel. He would pay the ransom price necessary to buy us back. The baby that Anna was holding in her hands would soon lay down his perfect life in Anna’s place. But not only in Anna’s place but yours as well. The ransom price that was due for all people was fully paid by Jesus. Anna had the privilege of holding that baby in her own hands. Remember those decades that Anna spent serving God and waiting for this promise to be fulfilled? Does her response show us that it was worth it or not? I think the answer to that is pretty easy. Every minute that Anna spent serving was more than worth it for the privilege to see her Savior face to face.
As we look back at Simeon and Anna’s lives spent waiting for the coming Messiah, we are reminded that we are now waiting, too. We are not waiting for Christ’s first coming but his return. We know that Christ has come. He has paid the price for our salvation, and we now joyfully wait for his return. This wait, this faithful service, can seem at times like an eternity. We begin to ask ourselves if service to the Lord as we wait is even worth it. Brothers and sisters, never forget what is at the end of our wait. We will not hold baby Jesus like Anna and Simeon, but we will see our Savior face to face. He will be there to welcome us into his perfect kingdom and tell us firsthand, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He will clothe us with robes of righteousness that he has won for us. He will crown us with a crown of righteousness that will never fail to bring us joy. Brothers and sisters, the wait is worth it. God fulfilled his promise to Anna and Simeon and he will fulfill it to you as well. We prepare ourselves for his return and joyfully await the fulfillment of his promise to us.
Now that Christmas is over we have to wait another 365 days for it to come again. But our joy as Christians is not limited to Christmas Day alone. The joy of knowing that Jesus has come, what Jesus has done, brings us joy and leads us every day. It leads us to faithfully serve him as we wait for his return. We know that every minute spent waiting will be worth it. Every minute spent faithfully serving is an opportunity for us to thank God for all that he has done for us. Simeon and Anna spent years waiting to see their Savior, and they were the furthest thing from disappointed. As you make yourself ready for Christ’s return always look forward to the day when Christ will call you to be with him. Look forward to the day when you will see your Savior with your own eyes. And as you wait you can rejoice with Anna and Simeon, knowing the wait is over. The Prince of Peace has come! He brings salvation for all and has paid the ransom for redemption. Amen.