The First Sunday After Christmas
8:00 a.m. Divine Service: Part 1
8:00 a.m. Divine Service: Part 2
Sermon Title: Depart in Peace! (Luke 2:25-35)
Well, it’s official, we have now entered the "Post-Christmas" days. How do you feel about that? A whole different atmosphere is visible everywhere. Stores are crowded once again; only this time with patrons attempting to exchange Christmas gifts that were either too small, too big, the wrong color or simply don't work. The alley dumpsters are crammed with discarded Christmas wrapping. Some of the front yards are already littered with dried-up Christmas trees. The bright lights and all the decorations seemed to have lost their luster. Many are anxious to take them down.
The emotional "let-down" has also begun to set in: ... "I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas!" .... "It wasn’t snowy enough!” …. “I was sick the whole time" ... "That person I really wanted to be with me this Christmas wasn't able to come because of the whole Covid situation." ... "Money was tighter this year and I simply was not able to buy the presents I wanted to or do the things I wanted to"... "I just didn't get that warm "Christmasy" feeling this year...."
Like a vanishing vapor of smoke, all of a sudden we now find all the merriment and excitement that characterized our life the days before Christmas have vanished. Now all we're left with is the "post-Christmas blues." And if previous years can be any kind of barometer, we can expect to see psychiatrists' offices filling up with clients suffering from all sorts of depressions........ a rise in family violence and spouse abuse ............. hospital beds filling up with poor souls suffering from all sorts of ailments, many of which are psychosomatic.
What many thought was Christmas and might have given us a temporary hiatus from the drudgery of our everyday lives has had no lasting effects. In fact, we might even find ourselves feeling more frustrated... more tired ..... more discouraged than we did last November.
Christmas ought never be a "let down." After all, Christmas is not about the presents .... the parties... the decorations. In fact, we can and do indulge in such things at all other sorts of times throughout the year. Christmas, however, is by its very name the worship of Christ, Who is the Son of Mary and Son of God. Christmas gives us the opportunity to view our Savior and His salvation afresh once again every year. It enables us, even in the midst of the malaise we call our lives, to become focused again and to find true peace and security again in the Gift of the Lord Himself to us. Christmas enables us to become refueled and equipped for the "post-Christmas" days.
Today, we are taught how Christmas impacts our "Post-Christmas" days from an old man of Israel. His name was Simeon. As far as we know, he wasn't anyone particularly special in any kind of outward way in Israel. He wasn't a priest or a ruler of Israel. But he wasn't your run-of-the-mill Jew either. Luke describes him as "righteous and devout." In other words, he was a believer in the Lord. He was a believer that was anxiously awaiting the "consolation of Israel." The "consolation of Israel" was a technical term of sorts among God's people. It referred to the coming of God's Messiah to save and comfort God's people with peace.
But there was something else that was unique about Simeon. It seems that one of the reasons he was so resolute in his longing for the Messiah to come was that he had received a special revelation from God. This special message personally assured him that he would see with his own eyes the Lord's Christ before he died. In other words, God promised Simeon that he was going to be privileged to celebrate Christmas!
And so it came to be. When the proper number of days for Mary's purification were observed after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to keep the Mosaic law that all firstborn be dedicated to the Lord. It was this day that the priest Simeon enjoyed his first Christmas. He picked up the infant Jesus in his arms and held Him. Here was God’s gift to him; his Messiah... his Savior! Simeon’s post-Christmas days were forever changed. His hopes had not gone unfulfilled.
He left the temple that day with a song of praise on his lips... a song we still sing in our communion liturgy. It is often called "The Nunc Dimittis," so named for the first two words of this song in Latin for "Lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."
Upon seeing the fulfillment of God's promise, Simeon could now leave this world in peace. His Savior and every sinner's Redeemer had come. He had seen Him with His own eyes and touched him with his own hands!
If the days after Christmas seem like such a let down to us, is the problem really with Christmas? Did we not see and touch Jesus, our Savior and Lord in His Word and Sacrament in our Christmas worship? If we did, how could this ever be a letdown! If we didn’t and our focus was elsewhere on fleeting worldly things, then perhaps we can see where the problem lies.
When Jesus spoke to the bewildered crowds concerning who John was, He asked them, "What did you go out to the wilderness expecting to see?" We could ask ourselves that same question with regard to Christmas. "What did we expect to see in our Christmas?”
Disappointment only happens when expectations are not met. And obviously, if we have been led by the world to expect to see and experience the wrong things, then we should not be surprised that we feel somewhat "let-down" after Christmas.
There is only one thing that can keep us properly focused upon Christmas. That one thing is the same thing that filled Simeon over the years with right expectations and sustained him throughout his life in faith and hope. It was God's revelation about His Messiah. Secular platitudes about the "spirit of Christmas," greetings of Happy Holidays, family Christmas-time traditions, yuletide stories about Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman, can only give us false expectations about Christmas. Only the message of Christ as revealed to us in God's Holy Word gives us proper expectations and hopes about Christmas. Why? Because that Word points us to God's great gift to the world; Jesus. Apart from Jesus there is no peace, no eternal joy , no "Good will toward men."
Simeon's "post-Christmas" days were full of peace and joy because He saw what God had promised him. That little baby of Mary and Joseph not only fulfilled his hopes but greatly impacted the rest of his days. Here in his arms was the "consolation of Israel." Here was the "light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of God's people Israel." Snuggled in his arms was the long promised Seed of Abraham, who would not only deliver God's Old Covenant people but also be a Savior from sin for all the nations.
Simeon could now "depart in peace." He could live out the rest of his days in complete contentment and peace. God had kept His promise in sending his Savior. No more did Simeon need to live in fear of God's wrath, or his enemies, or even death. He held in his arms his "salvation."
Babies have a way of changing things. They can turn our whole life upside down; and I'm not just speaking about our sleep schedules. Once you hold that little bundle of joy in your arms, the whole world looks different. Suddenly, your mind and heart are full of completely different priorities and concerns. Those things you once considered so important, now seem to fade into the background. And babies also have a way of bringing a certain happiness and joy into our lives that we can never experience in any other way.
Christmas brings a baby into your life also that changes everything. In the flesh of Jesus, God has, as Isaiah says, “…bared His holy arm” and come to save you. The infant Jesus lying in a manger became the sin-bearing Son of Man paled to a cross. Jesus has reconciled you and all sinners to God. In Jesus, you see God saving you from sin, temptation, earthly trial and trouble, and even eternal condemnation. He makes all things right between you and God even if all things are not right in the world. Jesus has changed everything; and He has changed it for your eternal good!
You are made to hold that salvation Christ Jesus brings in the bosom of your very soul and life through God's Means of Grace. God put Jesus in your arms when He poured His salvation upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism. There as the apostle teaches us, "You put on Christ." Christ’s life became your life. In your baptism you were also put to death in His death and made alive in His resurrection (Ro. 6) ....... You have also been made to hear The Child of Bethlehem's voice every time you hear God's comforting and reassuring words of forgiveness through Holy Absolution and the clear proclamation of the Gospel........ You are made to hold the Savior in your bosom whenever you eat of His body and drink of His blood from the cup of the Lord in His Holy Supper.
Having beheld your salvation in Jesus changes everything for you. You are never "post-Christmas!" The same comfort, hope, and peace that God gave to the world that first Christmas is with you in Jesus Christ everyday. As one who has received Jesus through the sacraments in faith, you can also "depart in peace."
The peace the Christ Child brings you goes with you into every avenue of your sometimes humdrum life ..... It accompanies you into the hospital to have surgery ..... It is your consolation when death robs you of a loved one ...... It keeps your spirit in check when worldly confrontations and wars rage against you ...... It is your companion as you grow older and your mortality dogs your every step. As the apostle Paul assures you, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, no things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, not depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." You see, It's always Christmas! Christ Jesus was born to and for you!
Simeon's Song (The Nunc Dimittis) is truly your song these "post-Christmas" days. For Heaven has come down to earth and brought you salvation in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Even if all the decorations are gone...... even if no one wants to sing Christmas Carols anymore ...... even if the holiday is over and it is back to work… or even if Covid 19 finally catches up with you, your life has already been touched by the Christ of Christmas. Praise be to God! You have already been made to see with your own eyes of faith God's salvation assuring you that Christ has conquered every enemy that would do you in. The hope of Christmas has been fulfilled in Good Friday and Easter. Post-Christmas people, you can depart in peace! Amen!