Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sermon -- The Presentation of our Lord (February 2, 2020)

LUKE 2:22-40


In the name + of Jesus.

     Occasionally people wonder why Mary was chosen to be the mother of our Lord and why Joseph was chosen to serve as his guardian.  When we try to rationalize God's choice, we try find some way that there was some merit or worthiness in them—as if Mary and Joseph had earned God's favor.  But God chose Mary and Joseph for their roles for the same reason you were chosen to be God's people—grace.  We are not God's people because we are smarter, more noble, or harder working.  All are sinners.  No one deserves God's favor.  But God gives it because he is gracious.  By grace, God worked faith in you to believe his word and be saved.  By grace, God chose Mary to give birth to the Savior and God chose Joseph to be his guardian. 
     While God's choice was according to his own gracious will, his choice of Mary and Joseph was not entirely random.  They were both of the house and lineage of David.  More than that, they both were believers in God's promises.  God had not only worked saving faith in them, he also worked in them a faith which took God's word most seriously.  Therefore, when Jesus had turned 40 days old, they went to the Temple to do for Jesus what the Law of Moses required.  They brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)  
     Joseph and Mary did not just believe the word of the Lord; they ordered their lives according to it.  They did not protest that traveling with an infant would be too hard.  They made the six mile journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.  They did not grumble that the offering needed to redeem Jesus would be costly.  They were too poor to offer the lamb that would have been required, but they willing presented the two turtledoves even if it did pose a hardship on their finances.  They rejected all the excuses they could have offered for cheating the Law.  They trusted that God would care for them, even as he had given them the Son of God to care for.
     By becoming a human being, Jesus also became subject to the Law of Moses.  Even the Son of God was in no position to insist, “That does not apply to me.”  Rather, Jesus was presented at the Temple to fulfill the Law of Moses.  Just as the blood of a lamb had spared the firstborn males of Israel back at the Passover, so the blood of a lamb continued to redeem each firstborn male in Israel—or, for the poor, two turtledoves.  So, through Joseph and Mary, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial commands of Moses.  Not only that, but he also fulfilled the moral obligation to God's Commandments.  Just as the life of two turtledoves were offered to redeem Jesus as a child of Israel, so Jesus would dedicate his perfect life in order to redeem us to be children of God.  His work was for our benefit.  Jesus was presented as child of grace.
     By God's grace, you have been made children of God.  But you also recognize how your sinful flesh often wins the battle against your good intentions.  Ignorance is not our problem.  We know the good God wants us to do.  We know the evil that God wants us to forsake.  Ignorance is not our problem.  Our problem is that our sinful nature makes us lazy.  The battle against sin and temptation is hard.  The devil knows it, and he convinces us that the battle against sin and temptation is not worth it.  Why deny yourself when life is short and unfair?  Why forgive people who sin against you?  They're just going to do it again.  Why not go back to our pet sins?  What good is forgiveness if we don't give God reasons to forgive us?  I don't think you have be convinced that these attitudes are evil.  And yet, we use them as excuses to indulge our sinful nature thinking that giving into sins is preferable to fighting for the faith.  It certainly is easier.  Ignorance of God's Commandments is not the problem; sinful hearts are the problem.  We are guilty, and we prove it.
     In contrast, Jesus came to do the good we have not, and he came to avoid every evil path we have walked on.  He not only believed the word of the Lord, he lived it.  While Jesus can be cited as an example to follow, his example will not save you.  That is why Jesus is presented as a child of grace.  He grants the grace that sinners need if we hope to be saved.
     Aged Simeon knew it.  Here is another man in whom our Lord worked a trusting faith.  Simeon longed for the salvation which God would bring through the Christ.  “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” (Luke 2:26)  Therefore, when Joseph and Mary brought the 40-day old Jesus to the temple, Simeon rejoiced that he finally saw the Christ and that he held in his arms the fulfillment of God's promises.  He praised God, saying, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” (Luke 2:29)  “Lord, now I have witnessed the fulfillment of your written word in the Word of God incarnate.  Here is salvation.  Here is grace.  Here is deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.  With that, I have peace and do not fear judgment or death.”  Jesus is presented as a child of grace.
     Simeon also stated, “Behold, this child is appointed … for a sign that is opposed … so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)  People speak against Jesus because they are insulted by his grace.  If you believe you are a good person who has only made a few mistakes, you won't really feel much need for grace or salvation.  Ultimately, you have nothing to be saved from.  Then God's grace becomes insulting to you.  For, God's grace is given only to those who are not good enough.  Pardon can only be granted to the guilty.  Jesus is presented as a child of grace, and those who are sinners rejoice at his coming.
     Simeon did.  Being an old man, Simeon knew that there was no escaping death.  But he did know that there was deliverance from the grave.  Jesus would supply that.  Being an old man, Simeon had years of regrets and sins to remember.  Simeon rejoiced that a Savior had come to make himself the payment for every single sin, whether he remembered them or not.  Simeon, being an old man, knew that judgment before God was soon to come.  Whatever good Simeon might have done was still marred by sin.  For, if we are not perfect, our deeds cannot be perfect either.  But here in his arms Simeon held the Christ who would be his advocate and answer for him.  Jesus became guilty on behalf of the world.  He suffered the punishment of the guilty.  He died the death of one cursed.  But the holy life Jesus lived answers for you—whether you were rebellious, weak, or lazy.  No matter what your past has been, the blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin.  The death of Jesus atones for all guilt.  And no matter what your future is in this world—whether it is easy or hard—the resurrection of Jesus delivers you out of death and hell.  The word of Jesus speaks consolation and peace.  So, when our end comes—whenever that may be—we, like Simeon, can depart in peace.
     Jesus is presented as a child of grace.  He keeps the Law for us who have not.  He fulfills God's promises for us who need them.  He graciously bestows upon us the faith which saves and works in us a faith which takes God's word seriously.  Therefore, we order our lives according to it.  We not only know what is good; we delight in it.  We not only know what is evil; we flee from it.  And because we need God's grace, we flee to where it is given—in word and sacrament.  We not only know that God is gracious; we live in his peace because of it.  Jesus is presented as a child of grace; by him we are saved.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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