Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sermon for 12/27/15: The Sunday After Christmas

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Sermon–The Sunday After Christmas (LSB 1-year) 
December 27, 2015

The Sacrifice

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

This past week we rejoiced with the shepherds at the birth of our Savior, and with Mary we pondered the wonder of God in the flesh. Now we look forty days in the future. Following the birth of a son, a mother had to wait forty days before going to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. So on the fortieth day, Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus travel to the Temple in Jerusalem. Carried in His mother's arms, the Lord came to His Temple to fulfill the law. Going to the Temple, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to His true home. Sacrifice was needed for the ritual of purification. It involved offering a lamb. If they were not able to afford a lamb, they could offer two turtledoves. And being of humble means, the Holy Family brings the birds. But the eyes of faith see the truth. Though Mary brings two turtledoves, the required Lamb is present. Though Mary carries the minimum requirement to the Temple, the Lord God “fills the hungry with good things.” The Lamb is present. He is carried, borne in the loving arms of His mother and step-father, into His house, the Old Testament dwelling place of God among men.
Meeting the Holy Family is Simeon, a man who has been waiting his whole life for the coming of the promised Messiah, the Consolation of Israel. Simeon received a promise from God that he would not die until he saw the Christ. As a sinner, Simeon longed to see God in the flesh as was first promised to Adam and Eve. Simeon trusted that God in the flesh would grant him release from the bondage of sin. Simeon took up the baby Jesus and held him in his arms, and the Spirit of God led him to proclaim, “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.” Holding this adorable Infant in his arms, Simeon saw something that the ordinary human eye could not see. Through the eyes of faith, Simeon saw and knew that this newborn Bundle of flesh and blood was the long expected Messiah, the One who would bear our sins to the cross, the One who would suffer, die, and rise in our place.
Simeon rejoiced to see his Lord, but he also saw that this Lord would have a different role than the world would expect of God in the flesh. He told Mary, Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against—yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Like the turtledoves brought to be sacrificed for Mary’s purification, this prophecy from Simeon points us forward to the sacrifice of Jesus for our purification.
But unlike Mary, we don’t have to wait forty days for our purification. Unlike Simeon, we don’t have to wait a whole lifetime to see our Savior. Our Sacrifice of purification, our promised Savior, is here. We don’t need to travel to Jerusalem. We don’t need to stand in the courtyard of an earthly Temple. God dwells with us already. Emmanuel, God with us, is already here! He is present in His holy Word. He is present in the water of your baptism. He is present in His body and blood in the holy Supper. 

God’s glory, His forgiving presence among His people, is no longer in a building. God is now present among His people in the person of Jesus, the Righteous one. God is present among His people in the gifts Jesus died as the Lamb of God to give us. It doesn’t make sense to our eyes. But we know it to be true. This is the miracle which we receive today in His Holy Supper. This is the miracle which we carry with us until we, like Simeon, depart this life in peace. 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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