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The Presentation of Our Lord and The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Luke 2:22-32

by pastorjuhl ~ January 29th, 2009

Deo volente, this will be preached at the Divine Service before the Lenten Preaching Seminar at Messiah Church, Kenosha, WI. I put this here just in case I forget to bring my sermon from Momence to Kenosha. Feel free not to read it if you are planning to be there!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

There is no reason Mary must bring her Son to the temple. Jesus is the temple with skin. Jesus was not conceived from the seed of man. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of the angel Gabriel into Mary’s ear and womb. Her first-born male Child is holy to the Lord regardless of the Law of Moses because He is the Son of God. Yet Mary and Joseph keep the Law by bringing Jesus to the temple with the offering required by the Law. Because they are poor they bring the price of sacrifice: two turtledoves or two pigeons.

Forty days old, nursing at His mother’s breast, and Jesus keeps the Law as He should. Here we are in our old age and we can’t even begin to keep the Law perfectly. We nurse at the breast of Holy Mother Church every Lord’s Day in Word and Sacrament. Yet we leave the house of the Lord only to go home and despise Him as well as our neighbor. We behold Jesus in the flesh proclaiming Good News that sets us free from the captivity of the Law only to bind ourselves under that same Law by believing we can make ourselves righteous in the sight of God and man.

Like Simeon we hold Christ close to us as He serves us in the Divine Service. But we live as if Christ is far from us; as far as the east is from the west. We speak ill of those whose souls are under our stewardship. We want to lord our authority over them. We want not so much to be loved but to be liked. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to explain everything in the kindest way. We don’t want to teach the Word. We would rather hold Christ close to us when it’s convenient, then drop Him like a bad habit when the devil and the world threaten us.

Like Simeon we are waiting to die. God promises us as He did Simeon that we won’t die without seeing the Lord’s Christ. We see Him not as a Baby but as victorious Lord of all; conqueror of death and glorious in array. But our song sounds different than Simeon’s song. Our song sounds like this: “Lord, leave me alone in peace according to my opinion. For my eyes can’t see Your salvation that you have promised before the sight of all people. Your light doesn’t lighten my path. Your promised glory to Your people Israel is broken.”

Our song sounds like the song of the dead. Left to our own devices outside of God’s Word of forgiveness, our song is a song of someone that will die with no confidence in Jesus. When we have no confidence in Jesus and His ministry among us, we might as well be dead because there is no hope when we die.

Jesus’ ministry of hope was already in full swing at eight days old when He was circumcised according to the Law of God. He didn’t need to be circumcised because Jesus is our circumcision. Yet He submits willingly to the Law of God in our place so He might keep the Law for us. Jesus sheds blood that we might live forever, covered in His blood and His perfect righteousness. Jesus’ ministry of hope continues at age 40 days. He didn’t need to be presented in the temple. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice from our heavenly Father. Yet He submits willingly to the Law of God in our place so He might keep the Law for us.

The price of sacrifice would go up as our Lord’s age went up. Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, considerably more than two turtledoves or two pigeons. His betrayal leads to the ultimate sacrifice for us: the shedding of blood. Jesus willingly suffers the humiliation of death upon a cross to ransom us from the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Jesus again sheds blood on our behalf to fulfill the Law and to cover us from God’s burning wrath over our sin.

It is this future event that Simeon sings. He has seen the Lord’s Christ. He believes what the prophets say concerning this Child. Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God. We will do the same in a few moments after receiving the Lord’s Christ under bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Singing Simeon’s song after the Distribution is a Lutheran anomaly when we look at the history of the Mass. Rome doesn’t sing it, the Anglicans don’t sing it, and Lutherans until 1888 didn’t sing it.

Perhaps the drafters of the Common Service were on to something when they put this canticle in the Mass. It fits perfectly with what is happening. We have taken Jesus up in our arms, whether we receive the Body of Christ by mouth or hand. We can’t help but bless God with the Words He first blessed us by causing Saint Luke to write down Simeon’s song under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We can argue whether or not Simeon was an old man. We can argue whether or not Simeon is saying he’s ready to die in peace or he’s ready to leave the temple in peace. The one thing we cannot argue is that Jesus is in His temple, the temple made of flesh and blood, and we behold Him in His temple as He is presented in His temple made of stone. The beauty of the Lord is no longer about an architectural masterpiece. The beauty of the Lord is about Jesus being last, lost, least, little, and dead so we might be with Him in His resurrection as first, found, greatest, large in life, and alive in Christ.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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