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First Sunday after Christmas
“Receiving the Holy Child”
St. Luke 2.22-40
30 December 2018
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
…When the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, [St. Simeon] took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2.27b-32; ESV)
St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 that, “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Cor. 2.12) The Holy Spirit was upon old St. Simeon, and had revealed to him he would not die until he saw the Lord’s salvation.
The Spirit helps you too, and comforts you too. God wills that you not die until you too receive the Savior. And you have in Holy Baptism, along with the Holy Spirit, who helps you to see in the baby Jesus what St. Simeon saw: Mary’s little lamb being freely given by God for our sins.
Simeon took Jesus up in His arms. The original language can be translated, he “received [the baby Jesus] in his arms.” Faith before God receives. God is always the giver, the presenter. We receive, beggars one and all, receiving good things we do not deserve. God brings His Holy Child in the holy temple and gives Him and His Holy Spirit as a gift – for us.
Jesus would later tell His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10.15) One wonders if Jesus had old Simeon in mind. Simeon did by God’s grace receive the Kingdom of God in this Holy Child, with a child-like faith. The world just sees normal people going about their business, a humble Galilean couple from backwoods Nazareth with another Jewish baby to be presented in the Temple. But this tiny baby was at the same time very God of very God, King of Kings, and the Kingdom of God, all rolled into one receiving blanket. Simeon was privileged to know and confess who the baby he received and held in his arms truly was. “Lord.” “Salvation.” “Light for revelation to the gentiles.” “Glory to your people Israel.”
Thirty years or more later, Jesus’ disciples would begin to argue among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. (Luke 9.44-48) They tended to do that whenever Jesus would predict His crucifixion. This argument was no different. The real answer to their argument of who was greatest among them was not among them, but had been granted his earthly departure by then: St. Simeon. Jesus, knowing our hearts, that we always look out for ourselves, and are always looking to be great and important among men, took a small child and put him by His side and said,
Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. (Luke 9.48; ESV)
It is well nigh time for all men to cast aside the works of darkness and our sin-darkened hearts. It is time to receive and welcome the Savior, and so receive His Father in heaven, to repent of sin, to long for the forgiveness of sins offered in Jesus Christ, and to strive daily for holiness. Jesus is calling you to be one in St. Simeon’s line of believers – the Holy Spirit works upon you, so you are least in the world’s eyes and great in God’s kingdom. We call it practicing our Baptism, daily drowning the old man so the new man arises in Christ.
Whoever receives this child in my name, says Jesus, you are receiving me. Receive this holy Christ child. He has the name above every name. He alone is Savior and Lord. He is offered by God to you, freely, without price. By grace, through faith in God’s Word, receive the gifts of God, and then respond by blessing God, praising Him, giving Him thanks for the gift. Like Simeon. Like Mary. Like Elizabeth. Like so many saints who have clung in faith to the hope that God has given them in the promise of salvation.
Sing the song of faith in Christ the Savior with them, the song of true and lasting peace, of firm confidence to know that death from this world is not the end, but instead is only the beginning of true and everlasting life. Simeon’s eyes and our eyes – the eyes of faith – see in Mary’s child eternal salvation, light, and deliverance from sin, death, and devil. It is more than appropriate that we sing Simeon’s Spirit song after receiving the same Lord in His Holy Supper, for in that supper the Lord strengthens and prepares us for dying to this life and rising to the new. It is more than appropriate that we sing that song together at the death bed of Christians, and at the Christian funeral.
Today, we hear that St. Simeon received the Lord in His holy Temple. But not truly in an earthly building made with human hands, but in the temple of His holy body, through which all believers in Christ have access to the holy of holies, and to the Father Himself, who hears our prayers and receives us as His own dear children, with forgiveness and love. What a moment that is. The angel hosts, unseen to every human eye, bow silently in holy awe, while the seraphim around the throne sing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth.”
The Lord is received in His holy Temple now. Joy, joy, for the little child who once laid to rest on Mary’s lap, sleeping, who is Christ the Lord, He has been slain to pay the price for your sins, and conquering them has risen from the dead, and sits on His throne. He comes to earth to sit on the throne of your heart and soul, to make your bodies His Holy Temple, here, in His Holy Body, the Church. By His powerful working in you, your eye of faith beholds and receives what is revealed to you by the Holy Spirit – that here in the Divine Service, in Water, Word, Absolution, and Supper, you receive what St. Simeon received – Your peace, Your salvation, Your Savior, Your King of Kings, Your Lord of Lords, Your eternal good.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for presenting Your Son as atonement for our sins to our eternal good. Grant that we, with St. Simeon and all believers in Your Name, would ever receive Your Son into our hearts as Savior and Lord, and that by Your Holy Spirit we would ever be thankful, and sing Your praises, and one day as You grant it, give us to so depart this life in Your peace and joy. Grant this prayer, for Jesus’ sake. Amen. + In the Name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +