Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sermon for 12/29/19: First Sunday After Christmas

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The Temple in Flesh

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

The Temple in which Our Lord was presented was not the Temple of the Old Testament, the one built by Solomon according to Divine command. That had been desecrated and destroyed. The Temple of the presentation, where Simeon sings his song, was the one built by wicked Herod. Even so, God sanctified that Temple. He made it His place. The blood of animals was spilled there in the place of men’s, as the wages for sins. The aroma was pleasing to God. He chose to dwell there among His people with His gracious, merciful presence.
But Temple was no more permanent than the roving canvas Tabernacle of Moses we heard about on Christmas morning. The Temple in which Our Lord was presented and laid into Simeon’s arms was eventually destroyed. It no longer exists. It has been gone since the year 70AD. And even if a Temple like Herod’s is built today, God will not dwell there. That Temple has served its purpose. God has raised up for Himself a Temple which men did not build, but that men did tear down. That Temple is Jesus, God dwelling among His people in flesh. That Temple was rebuilt on the third day, and men will never tear Him down again. This living, eternal Temple is the only one that counts, for Jesus has fulfilled those Old Testament Temples.
Jesus is the place of God’s gracious presence among His people. He is Immanuel, God with us, God as one of us for our salvation. He is the Passover Lamb that takes away sin—and not just the sins of those whose doors are marked, but the sins of the whole world. It is His blood sprinkled upon us which makes us clean and declares us righteous. He stands between us and God’s perfect Law, our Shield and Protector. He intercedes for His beloved even while teaching them to pray. He is the consolation of Israel, the redemption of those who believe.
He is not bound to time or space, but He bound Himself to the stuff of Mary’s womb that He might bleed and die and rise again to recapture men for Himself. Now His humiliation is ended. As a Man, as Mary’s Son, our Brother, He always and fully uses His Divine rights and power. As a Man, God dwells in the hearts of men, making them the temple of His Holy Spirit. As a Man in flesh, He is present in bread and wine to join us to Himself in a sacramental union that defies our intellect but satisfies our faith.
God has called you to be where He is, where He has said He will be for you by grace. That doesn’t mean that you will experience an emotional high when you encounter Him in Word and Sacrament. He does give us those times, and we give thanks when they come. But ours is a life of faith, which means believing in His Word and promises. Even when we feel cold inside, even numb with self-pity, we live by faith; we trust God’s Word.
The birth and death and resurrection of Christ our Lord was for your eternal peace. Time is not without an end, and neither is your sorrow or your pain. It will not last. Christ lives. He is coming back. For now, while we wait, He is here for you in the places that He has promised to be: His Word, His body and blood, in Holy Absolution. This is the Temple in flesh, put into you this morning by way of the mouth, that you yourself would become what He is: the place where God is present. You are His own beloved in whom He is well pleased. You are the dwelling place of His Spirit. Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, the Temple not built with hands, is presented here this very day, just as He was in Herod’s Temple so long ago. He is presented for you—always for you. Here is your 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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