Sermon for First Sunday after Christmas

Sermon for First Sunday after Christmas

(Transcribed by machine 04/08/2024)

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes
have seen your salvation.
You may be seated.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Dear Saints, we are going to meditate today on this Gospel lesson from Luke chapter 2,
but I just, I can’t skip those verses about the bride and the bridegroom in Isaiah chapter
61, can I?
Look at what it says.
He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride
adorns herself with jewels.”
I think we can say with somewhat certainty that probably the best that most of us have
ever looked in our lives was on our wedding day.
That’s the day, at least, that you spend the most time getting ready for it, apparently.
And there’s a reason that Isaiah picks up on that.
It’s quite, in fact, it’s not just that the fact that whenever the Bible wants to talk
about joy and gladness, it talks about the wedding feast.
In fact, I mean, from beginning to end, from Genesis all the way to Revelation, it’s about
the Lord preparing us as His bride to be in the great wedding, the wedding of the Lamb,
Jerusalem, in fact, heaven itself is Jerusalem, adorned like a bride for her husband.
This is eternal life.
This is eternal wedding feast.
And Isaiah picks up on that picture of the bride dressed beautifully in her wedding dress
and in her jewels, and the bridegroom dressed in all of his bride-groomy clothes so that
he looks as handsome as he’ll ever look, that this is a picture of our salvation.
And in this way, and we don’t want to miss this, because I think we normally think that
And salvation is the Lord taking stuff away from us, like our sins He takes away, our
death He takes away, our afflictions He takes away, it’s true.
There is a sense that the Lord cleanses us of our sins, but here the Lord is also adding
something to you.
He’s giving something to you.
He’s dressing you.
Now, this is so important, especially when we think about shame, it’s good to remember
this.
Because, you know, as Christians we know that we are sinners, we confess that, we confess
it all together already, that we’ve broken God’s law, that we deserve His punishment,
His temporal and eternal punishment, and we have a sense of what to do when we’ve sinned,
when our conscience is burdened and we feel guilty.
We come to church, we confess our sins, we hear the absolution, the Lord is just and
righteous, He forgives our sins, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
We rejoice in that.
In fact, the rule, I think, just as a rule of thumb, is that when you come and confess
your sin and that same sin comes up into your mind in the general confession three weeks
in a row, then it’s time to make an appointment with me or Pastor Davis or Pastor LeBlanc
for private confession absolution, say, look, here’s a sin that I just cannot get out of
the conscience.
What are you going to do with that?
And here’s a secret.
it, we’re going to forgive it.
We know what to do with the sins that we’ve committed, but what about – this is the
trickier part – what about the sins that are committed against us?
What about the times, not that we broke the law, but that the law was broken towards us,
that we were lied about, or that we were hurt, or that we were cursed, or that we were spoken
ill of, or we were abused, or neglected?
What then?
I remember talking to an old pastor who said, it was something of a confession, he said,
Brian, we really miss this in our day because people might come to us and they’d say,
this happened to me, I was sinned against, I was abused in this way, and we would say,
well, look, you didn’t do anything wrong, you shouldn’t be upset.
It’s not so simple, is it?
Because a sin committed against us, I think this is really, when the Bible talks about
being unclean.
This is probably the category that it’s thinking about, that when we’re abused or afflicted
or sinned against, we become unclean.
And the word that we can use for that is shame.
We become shamed.
And the picture that’s most often connected to shame in the Bible is the picture of nakedness.
Remember Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden and they realized that they were
naked and they were ashamed?
Or, Noah, when he gets off the ark, he offers a sacrifice to God.
I guess there’s two things on the to-do list, right?
You offer a sacrifice to God and then build a vineyard, and he built a vineyard and was
drunk and he was naked and his sons, the two older sons, to cover his nakedness, to cover
his shame.
Or even in Revelation when the church of Laodicea says, we’re rich, we don’t need anything and
God says, you don’t realize that you’re wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Come to me and I will cover the shame of your nakedness.
This is the picture that the Bible gives is that our shame, your shame, my shame is covered.
That Jesus, it’s…
Have you seen like the accident on the side of the road where the person is there in shock
and they’re shaking and the ambulance comes and they wrap them in a blanket?
The Lord comes and He finds us having been wrecked in this world and sinned against and He comes and He wraps us with the robe of His righteousness.
And that robe that’s wrapped around you is beautiful. It’s splendid. It’s wonderful.
And the Lord, He gives that to you so that you now share in His beauty, so that He looks
at you and He doesn’t see your shame.
He looks at you and He sees you covered by the perfect life and death of Jesus, and He
delights in you like a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.
That’s the picture here.
Here we are in our weakness and our sinfulness and the filthy unrighteousness of our own
lives, the things that we’ve done wrong and the wrong things that have been done to us
and all of it, all of the sin and all the guilt and all the shame, and the Lord comes
along and He washes us with the blood of Jesus and then He covers us.
So look, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness like a bridegroom, decked like a priest, as
bride adorns herself with jewels. So you are covered. You are ready for the
wedding day. You’re ready for your bridegroom, Jesus, to
behold you. Do you wonder about that? Like when Jesus looks at
you, if he’s just gonna kind of, ah, I was expecting someone more beautiful. You
could not be more beautiful to the Lord Jesus. He has adorned you, he has prepared
you, he’s washed you, he’s covered you, he delights in you as a bridegroom
rejoices in his bride. Do you want to see verse 3? It’s the last
verse of the Old Testament, look at what it says,
you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the
hand of your God. He treasures you like a royal gem. That’s pretty good. Okay, now we
got to look at the gospel lesson. This is the 40th day of our Lord’s life.
Remember, the law of Moses had made provision that the circumcision of the boys, the baby
boys would happen on the eighth day, and the purification of the mom would happen on the
fortieth day.
So according to the law, Joseph and Mary take Jesus into the temple to offer those sacrifices,
the two turtle doves.
It’s on the window here.
We have all four of those canticles from the beginning of Luke on the windows in the transept,
And you can see the Nunc Dominus one because it has the two turtle doves.
They were there to offer that sacrifice.
That was a sacrifice, by the way, of a poor family.
A wealthy family could offer the sacrifice of a lamb or something like this, but a poor
family would offer two doves as a sacrifice.
So Mary and Joseph, poor family, go to offer this sacrifice.
That’s probably an indication that the wise men hadn’t been there yet, because they were
doing a lot better after that visit from the wise men.
And they could afford the trip even to Egypt.
But they go into the temple to offer the sacrifice, and there they meet two people, two really
unique people.
In fact, it’s kind of wonderful for us to remember this, that there was these saints
who were waiting for the redemption of Israel.
We normally, when we’re reading the gospel, we think that the people in Jerusalem are
the bad guys, because we mostly think of the Pharisees who were the enemies of God and
the gospel and everything.
But remember, there was a whole remnant that the Lord had preserved for Himself.
And Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary, that’s part of it.
Also Anna and Simeon here that we hear about in the gospel text, they were waiting for
the redemption of Israel.
And, in fact, the text tells us that Anna, the prophetess, went and told everybody who
was waiting for the redemption of Israel that now it’s come, now the time has been fulfilled,
the Son has been born.
So there was a whole group of faithful Israelites who were waiting for the Lord to fulfill His
promise which he did in Jesus.
But there’s one among them, this unique character, Simeon, whom the Lord had come and given a
promise and it said that, that you will not die until you see the Lord’s Christ.
Now, I don’t know of anyone who had a promise like this except for Simeon, but the Lord
gave this great gift to Simeon, said, it’s going to happen before your death.
The closest parallel I can think of is Methuselah in the Old Testament, remember the oldest
one to live, and the Lord it seems like had promised Methuselah that the judgment wouldn’t
come until you die.
So you’re going to live, the judgment won’t come in your lifetime, so the flood comes
just a couple of years after Methuselah dies.
This is like that but it’s the opposite, you’re not going to die until this happens.
And he’s waiting and waiting and now he’s an old man but now the Spirit says, hey, today’s
the day, go into the temple.
And so in the Spirit, he goes into the temple and he sees, here’s this family, Joseph and
Mary with this little 40-year-old baby, sorry, I did it again, I did that this morning, too.
Forty-day-old baby, a 40-year-old baby would be something.
A 40-day-old baby, he carries there in the arms of his parents and Simeon sees something
that nobody else can see.
He can see that this child is the Christ, that this is the promised one, that this
is the one he’s been waiting for. This is no ordinary baby, although everything
that he could see, everything that anybody could see, would indicate that
this looks like a normal baby. But this is not a normal baby. This is God in the
flesh. This is the Christ. This is the Lord’s salvation. And so Simeon comes up
to Mary and Joseph and takes the baby in his arms and blesses God, lifts him up
and sings his hymn, the Nunc Diminis.
Lord, now thou lettest thy servant depart in peace
according to your word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
It’s a beautiful prayer.
In fact, so beautiful is this prayer
that we sing it every Sunday
after we have the Lord’s Supper.
I think I’ve mentioned this to you before.
Maybe this is an admission
that when I was a kid growing up
and we would sing the Nunc Diminis,
this is how it sounded to me.
It wasn’t, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Your Word.
It was, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart to Kentucky Fried Chicken for the service
is over.
In other words, the nunc diminus was the indication that the service was coming to a close.
And it is that, I suppose.
It’s time to dismiss.
But that’s not what Simeon’s talking about.
When Simeon says, Lord, now I’m ready to depart in peace, he’s saying, Lord, now I’m ready
to die.
I can ask for nothing more than what you have given me.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
There is one thing needful, one thing that we desire, one thing that the Lord would give
to us, and that is it.
And it marks then the culmination and the high point of Simeon’s life.
This is really helpful for us on New Year’s Eve to think about, because I don’t know if
you’re gonna make resolutions tonight or make resolutions tonight then redo it
tomorrow but it’s a good thing for us to think back at the turn of the year like
this about how things have been last year and how things have been in the in
the last few years and how things have been in our lives up to this point and
how we’d like things to go next year and the year after that and what we’re
gonna change and do different and stop and start and fix and improve and and
it’s good to think about these things in fact in fact that the turning of the year
They’re just like the turning of the day and all these things, they make us think about
how we’re on a clock and that clock doesn’t run forever, that all of us in fact are going
to die.
We come to the end of the year, we think about those people who died this last year.
We wonder if we’re going to make it to the end of next year.
And one of the things as we think about our own mortality and think about the end of our
own lives is we think, well, what have I not done?
And you know what, this list of things that you want to do before your end, is it the
bucket list, the things that you want to do before you kick the bucket?
I don’t know if you have those lists, but here’s my suggestion.
I think all of us should have a bucket list, and it should be the same as Simeon.
There was one thing on it that he would see the Lord’s salvation, that he would take up
into his hands the Lord’s Christ.
That’s it.
There’s nothing more.
That is your bucket list, is to see that God is gracious, to see that He’s kind, to
see that He’s put away your sins, to see that He loves you, to take up into your
hands His salvation. And I’ll just give you a little hint, in about 25
minutes you’re gonna check that off the list, because you’re
gonna come up here and the Lord Jesus is gonna say, this is my body given for you,
this is my blood shed for you and you’re gonna say, Lord now let us thou thy
servant depart in peace. It’s all accomplished. The Lord could not be more
gracious to you. He could not be more kind than he is. He cannot give anything
more than what he has already given in Christ in his life and in his death and
resurrection and in His ascension, Lord, now you’re letting your servant depart
in peace according to your Word. Now there’s one thing that I just want to
make sure we don’t miss here in the text, and I think this is probably why this
impressed Mary and Joseph so much, why the Holy Spirit has it for us,
and that is because Simeon was pretty impressed with something that did not
seemed that impressive. I don’t know how many babies were being brought into the
temple that day. I don’t know how many families were coming to Jerusalem to
offer the sacrifices. I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of people were
walking through the temple and they all looked one like the other. That
Jesus did not stand out in the crowd. He was not like the Christmas
pictures have him, like glowing, like he was on irradiated sun, like a sunbeam or
something like that. No, Jesus looked just like every other baby, wrapped in
just like every other baby clothes, just like every other baby smile, just
like every other baby curly hair and all that. He looks just like every other baby.
But God the Holy Spirit had given Simeon eyes to see that there was something
special going on with this one. And that’s what we have to have. Look, Jesus
comes to save us, Jesus comes to save you in very non-spectacular ways. A baby in a
manger, a man on a cross, bread and wine placed into your hand, water splashed
on your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit in
very ordinary ways, but in these things you behold God who is your
salvation, who loves you, who saves you, who delivers you, who forgives your sins
and who clothes you with the glory and radiance of the righteousness of Christ.
So God be praised. In a few minutes we will all join Simeon’s choir and sing
together the hymn that he teaches us to sing.
Lord, now you’re letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which you have prepared before the face of all people.
May God grant it for Christ’s sake, amen.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding,
guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.