Christmas Sermon: Salvation in the Face of Jesus

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

It was an incredible night for Mary and Joseph. Nine months earlier, the angel Gabriel had told Mary that, though a virgin, she would conceive and bear a son who would be the Messiah, the promised one sent from God, would be God himself come in the flesh. This was a lot for Mary to take in. Joseph required a separate vision from the angel and then for nine months they waited. As the time approached, they were forced to travel from their home of Nazareth to Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem. While they were there, when there was no room for them, the child was born. Mary wrapped him in clothes and lay him in a manger – an animals’ food or water trough. Soon they received visitors – shepherds – who told them angels had appeared and told them to look for the infant in Bethlehem wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger, that this child was the Savior, Messiah, and Lord. When they saw the child, the shepherds went out and told everyone they could find the good news that the Messiah was born. It was an incredible night for Mary and Joseph. But then things went back to normal – feeding the baby, changing him – normal stuff. Things went back to normal, or did they? Listen to the next part of the story.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

When the time came for the purification rites required by the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.”) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what was said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Sovereign Lord,

as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace,

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.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old. She had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

After an incredible night long ago, life went back to normal for Mary and Joseph. Well, as normal as it could be having given birth to Christ where the animals were kept, and lay him in an animal trough and then been visited by shepherds who go out to proclaim that your child is the Messiah. Life went back to normal. Well, as normal is things could be for Mary and Joseph.

Eight days after Jesus was born, his parents, being godly people who follow God’s commandments, had him circumcised and named him Jesus, just as the angel had told them.

Forty days after he was born, the family heads to Jerusalem. They went to consecrate their son to the Lord, as it was written in the Law of the Lord and as was normal for observant Jewish families. They also went to offer a sacrifice for the purification of Mary, who would have become ritually unclean after giving birth. That is the offering of ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’

All of this is good and right and perfectly normal. Yet, when they arrive in Jerusalem, God has provided two witnesses to remind them, to remind us, that in the midst of these normal events, there is something incredibly special about Jesus.

God provides Simeon and Anna to bear witness in the temple to who this child Jesus is. In our short time together, I want us to listen to the witness of Simeon and Anna to the person of Jesus.

Simeon had been waiting. We do not know how old he was or how long he had been waiting, but Simeon was waiting, Luke tells us, “for the consolation of Israel.” In other words, he was waiting for God to bring comfort to his suffering people. He was waiting for the words of Isaiah 40 to be fulfilled, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.” Simeon was waiting for that everlasting comfort that only God could bring. And he had been told that he would see the Messiah before he dies.

When Mary and Joseph walk in, holding baby Jesus, Simeon takes him in his arms and praises God saying,

“Sovereign Lord,

as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace,

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.”

For my eyes have seen your salvation. Holding the child Jesus in his arms, Simeon proclaims that he has seen the salvation of God. To see Jesus is to see God’s salvation. To look upon the face of Jesus is to look upon the one who saves. It is to look upon the fulfillment of all for which Simeon had longed. To see Jesus is to see God’s salvation. This is true for us as well. The Holy Spirit tells us in the book of Acts that there is no other name than the name of Jesus by which we can be saved. It is seeing Jesus that we see the salvation of God.

Simeon has seen God’s salvation in the face of Jesus and now he can die in peace. He says, Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. Having seen the Savior, Simeon can die in peace.

We don’t want to talk about death. We certainly don’t want to talk about it on Christmas morning. Can’t we just unwrap the presents, sit together drinking cocoa and think about cute baby Jesus? Let’s leave all that unpleasantness of death for some other day. So much of our world is obsessed with death because we are fascinated and afraid of it. We don’t want to die, so we put on our make-up, hit the gym, get botox, just to look a bit younger, to at least feel like we are putting off acknowledging death for a little while. Yet, Simeon says, “Sovereign Lord,

as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

Those who have seen Jesus, who see and know the salvation that is found in him alone, we can die in peace. Not in fear, not in anxiety, not in resignation, but in peace. For our eyes have seen the salvation of God in the face of Jesus. So there is no need to fear, because there is eternal peace, eternal hope, eternal life in Jesus. You may now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.

Have you? Have you found the salvation of God that is in Christ Jesus alone? For friends, this is the only way to die in peace and to live in peace. What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful savior, Jesus Christ.

The witness of Simeon confronts us with this question: Have your eyes seen God’s Salvation? Do you know Jesus? Do you belong to him? Can you be dismissed in peace? This is part of the promise of Christmas, that in looking in the face of that child, that Jesus, we see salvation. When we do, we no longer need to be afraid.

God provides two witnesses: Simeon and Anna. Anna was a widow for most of her adult life, but she dedicated her life in worship and pray to the Lord, worshipping night and day, fasting and praying, it says. When she came up to Mary and Joseph, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

She spoke about Jesus to all those who were looking for redemption. All those who were longing for God to set things right, for Jerusalem, for them, for the world. It was not just Simeon who was longing for God’s salvation to come. It was not just Anna, praying night and day, who longed to see the redemption of God. There were many in the temple that day and Anna could not remain silent, when she had seen Jesus.

And I would argue that Scripture teaches us that everyone, whether they know it or not, is longing for redemption. Every one of us knows that something is not right with the world, not right with us, and in our heart of hearts, we know that something is not right between us and God. There were many people in the temple that day longing for good news, longing to hear that salvation, forgiveness, redemption, was for them. And there are many today who walk through our lives who long for good news, who long to know that forgiveness is possible, that God is setting things right. There are many who walk through our lives today that desperately, even if they cannot put it into words, long to hear that Jesus Christ was born to save, that in the face of Jesus there is peace, and hope, and life eternal.

When Anna saw Jesus, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. She did not remain silent. Will we?

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

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