Worship Sermon Transcript December 27, 2020
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Luke 2:25-33 ~ Sunday, December 27, 2020With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day both behind us, much of the busyness of Christmas is in the past.That gives us time along with the mental and emotional space to do some reflecting. So I’d like to ask you some reflective questions this morning.
Did any of you hear the question, “What do you want for Christmas?”over the last month or so? Did you ask that of someone else? It seems like every year I’m asking that question to one person or another because I don’t know what everyone wants.
In the Gospel for today, we hear about a man named Simeon and what was on his wish list. Not that he had put together a Christmas wish list ... because the practice of gift giving and receiving at Christmastime wasn’t a thing in his day. In fact, what Simeon longed for wasn’t really the holiday of Christmas! Simeon wanted to see the long-promised Savior! He wanted to see the Messiah who would console Israel. He wanted to see a time when non-Jews would understand the glory of God. Simeon wanted to see God’s saving plan unfold. He wanted to see what God wants for us.
What He really wanted to see, was the coming of the Christ...and he wanted this with the same kind of anticipation and enthusiasm as every kid in America has while the wait and wonder what gifts they’ll be getting at Christmas. This is the kind of longing Simeon was feeling about seeing the Savior with his own eyes.
Now, just to set the stage for today’s Gospel story. It is 40 days after Jesus was born.Mary and Joseph are doing what Jewish parents do. They traveled to the temple to dedicate their firstborn son to the Lord and to bring an offering for Mary’s ceremonial purification following childbirth. They follow God’s law in bringing a purification offering, and they follow it to the letter even though they are poor, in lieu of the more expensive offering of a lamb, they offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons.I mention this simply to call attention to the fact that they didn’t have wealth or power or influence, the sorts of things that naturally tend to draw people’s attention.
But when they enter Temple, this man named Simeon notices them. Aside from what we are told in Luke 2, we know nothing more about him. We don’t know his background, his hometown, his education, or even his occupation. We just know, according to verse 25 that he was a good and godly man and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.We also learn that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes.Can you imagine the old man Simeon?His face is wrinkled with the years. His hands, showing his age, as he takes this baby in his arms. And what’s happening here is more than just fascination with a little infant.Simeon knows he’s holding in his arms what he’s hoped for for so long, looking into the very eyes of the long-promised Messiah.Simeon sings quite a song, praising this little child!
I think it’s important that we know the kind of world in which Simeon was living, the kind of moral and political environment into which Jesus was born. The autocrat dictator, Herod ruled in southern Israel. Roman troops were stringing up Israelite patriots. Jerusalem had its fair share of beggars. The power of Rome was undeniable. Revolts were constant. Roman Generals jockeyed for power. Government sanctioned murders were without end.
Herod, Himself, killed two of his sons and a wife. Caesar once said of Herod: “it was safer to be a pig in Jerusalem than a son of Herod.” Life was short if Herod thought you a rival for his throne. People paid their taxes, but were never sure when the rules would change. Not exactly a world that was merry and bright! How could anyone remain hopeful under such circumstances?
Simeon did. But notice what Simeon remained hopeful for: “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). While the Israelite nation dreamed of political deliverance and economic prosperity, Simeon felt true peace as he held the fulfillment of his hopes. And despite all that wasn’t right in the world at the time, Simeon is completely content with life at this moment and, in essence, he is saying that he could die right now. Everything that is meaningful to him has just been fulfilled. Simeon is holding the salvation of the world in his arms. That which he had been waiting for has arrived.
God wants to us to live in the same kind of hope that Simeon had, trusting God and his plans for us even as we live through dark and difficult times! If you are lonely this year, live in this hope: Jesus came for you. If your family has rejected you, embrace this hope: Jesus came for you. If you feel forgotten, depressed, discouraged, and down on your life,anchor yourself to this hope: Jesus came for you! Whatever sins are holding you back this year, discover hope in the profound promise of Christmas: you are forgiven because Jesus came for you.
I am 100% sure of this because of the reasons Simeon sang in his song: Jesus came to bring salvation to all people... and because you are part of all people, it is absolutely, undeniably true that Jesus came for you! Even if you still struggle with sins, even if you haven’t been 100% faithful in your spiritual walk, even if you have skeletons in your closet and darkness in your soul. You are who Jesus came for because He came for the broken people, the struggling people, sinful people, empty people, fearful people, doubting people. He came for those who make mistakes and fail to meet God’s standard.Yes, Jesus came to save those who need saving!
We live in hope, not because of how good we are or how much improvement we’ve made, but because our Savior has come into the world! Even while we are here in this world, we get to live in spiritual comfort, sure hope and eternal peace.But life in this world makes it difficult to fully experience these blessings all of the time. So God teaches us how to seek after these things and find them where God had designed them to be found. First, seek the manger and see how God fulfilled his promise. For generations, the Old Testament people waited for the Savior to come and rescue them.The Prophet Micah told them where to look: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,though you are small among the clans of Judah,out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,whose origins are from of old,from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
People frequently look to the holiday season to them hope and peace, comfort and joy. Yet many come out the other side of this season just as empty as when they entered, and often, more exhausted. The problem isn’t that they’re looking for the wrong things, it’s that they’re looking in the wrong place. Well, more precisely, they’re not looking to the right person. Only the Savior who comes from the house and line of David, born in Bethlehem, is able to deliver these things without fail. Seek the manger and fill up on the hope that comes from trusting in the God who keeps His promises!
Second, seek the cross, growing in appreciation for how God spared no expense to pay for the gift of our salvation. It wasn’t just a birth of a child that provided saving grace. It wasn’t the miraculous birth to a virgin, the star that shone in the sky, or the angels that celebrated His birth. Instead, the babe in a manger was the beginning of the journey.This infant child developed into a man. This man grew a ministry equipping disciples to take his message to the world, even though the world would condemn this man to death. This same Jesus who as a baby called his first bed a crude wooden manger, a feeding trough designed for animals, is the same Jesus who as a man was nailed to a crude wooden cross, designed for the worst of criminals.
And when Jesus went to that cross, he didn’t go there alone. Our sins went there with him, nailed to that tree together with his hands and feet. That’s where he took our terrible secrets, that’s what he’s done with our disobedience and our selfishness and self-centeredness. Jesus carried to the cross every sin we ever committed. And by his death, he paid in full the debt that rightly belongs to us. And by his resurrection he broke sin’s captivating power over us.
The manger is the good news that salvation has arrived. The cross is salvation in action.And that points us to the final thing God would have us seek.
Ultimately, God wants us to seek Jesus. We can’t do that quite the same way Simeon did. You are notable to lay your physical eyes on the infant Christ, being carried into the temple. You have not held that little baby in your arms. But here’s what you do have. You have the same word of God given to Simeon. Your ears have heard the word of the Lord. Your eyes have seen, with the eyes of faith, what God has laid before you: the path of peace, leading all the way to heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ. And you get to receive in the Supper Jesus himself instituted, his very body and blood that he used to accomplish your salvation!Dear Christian, Simeon has no advantage over you. You are just as blessed. You are just as comforted. You can say with just as much confidence and conviction as Simeon: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,you may now dismiss your servant in peace” (Luke 2:29).
With joy and gladness we praise God for the salvation that comes to us, freely and fully, in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord. Now we can face whatever comes to us this week, or in this year to come. Whether that means health issues, financial issues, broken relationships, struggles with friendships or difficulties with coworkers -whatever comes our way, Jesus readies us to work through it in peace. Even death, if the Lord should decide it’s our time to go. We are ready. Not because of our own stellar track record of good deeds. But because of Jesus Christ, the infant Messiah, the man dying on the cross, the risen Savior. This is the one who speaks to us his words of peace. This is the one who has the words of eternal life. And this is God’s promise to you, that you have forgiveness and peace–and with them, everlasting life–because of this Jesus Christ.
What hope for the new year! What peace that surpasses all understanding! What joy to know this Savior! What blessing it brings to you, to your family and to this congregation! Nothing else is like it. Nothing else can fill the void and vacuum you would have apart from Christ. But with Christ we are ready to face whatever comes our way.
Simeon, we hear you! Your song is our song too. For Christ has come into this temple, and the Holy Spirit has revealed him to us here also. Now we are ready to depart in peace.Amen.