Monday, December 29, 2014

Sermon for 12/28/14: Christmas I



Ready to Go

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Simeon was not afraid to die. He was ready to depart this life. But how can he go quietly and peacefully? The Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Once Simeon holds Baby Jesus in his arms, he is certain that his salvation is assured. He knows that now he can "depart in peace according to God’s Word." It is Jesus and His Word that prepare us for death. Christ comes into this world so that we might depart this world, not in terror of judgment, but in peace.
When the hour of your death comes, will you be at peace? Or will you thrash around in the terror of your sins? Perhaps the greatest reason people fear death is because of the judgment they think they will face. Even Christians fall into this trap. We imagine that we will stand before the Lord and have to answer for every sin, have every bad thought, word, and deed displayed, that all the sins we tried to hide will be exposed for everyone to see. Not so! Isaiah tells us that the Branch of Jesse's stem will not judge by what He hears and sees but will judge with righteousness. That means that when you die and stand before the Lord, He won't expose what He's seen and heard. He will judge you based on righteousness, on His own works and life. You are judged on the basis of Jesus. Christ was born to set us free from sin and death. He took our place under the Law and paid the price of His own blood to buy us back from sin and death.
Simeon rejoices to hold the infant Christ in his arms and he sings a song of rejoicing. Why will Simeon die in peace? He will die in peace because he has seen the Lord's salvation. He has seen and held Christ. Simeon knows that, now that the Christ is here, sin and death can't hurt him. The Devil, hell, the judgment of the Law itself: they all fall down, powerless. Simeon, an old man, can stand tall and drive away the Devil and all fear and terror because he holds in his arms the Son of God who came to save him. And Simeon is under no illusion as to how this happens. He isn't saved because he gets to cuddle little Baby Jesus. He turns to Mary and tells her that a sword will pierce her soul. She will stand and look on as her son is nailed to a cross. Simeon knows that his peace comes at the price of this Child's death. Simeon can depart in peace because this Child was born to suffer and die and rise again. Simeon departs in peace because he knows that this Child has come to take his place under the Law. Simeon departs in peace because, having seen Jesus, he has seen the Lord's salvation.
Now, like Simeon, you can depart in peace. There is a reason we sing Simeon's song after we receive Christ’s body and blood. At the altar, you've just been given Christ Himself, the One who was crucified and risen from the dead. Whatever comes your way this week, you will face it as one who is full of Jesus. And even if your life ends, it ends in Jesus. To come and receive Christ's gifts is to hold the Lord's salvation just as Simeon did. That's why your pastor tells you to "depart in peace" after you partake of the Holy Supper. Having been given Christ and all His gifts, we are ready to die.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian murdered by the Nazis, once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We know that life in Christ is not all wine and roses and prosperity. Life in Christ is lived under the cross, and your faith in Christ may result in your physical death. Even if it does not, the day will come. You will die. Whenever that day and hour comes, know that you have seen the Lord's salvation. You will depart in peace, according to the Word of God. When you hear this morning to "depart in peace," stand up. Brush death aside, confident in the gift of salvation which is yours in Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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