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“The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord,” Luke 2:22-40

Simeon&Jesus22When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation  31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

      33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

      36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

      39And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Of the accounts of our Lord Jesus, probably the most recognized are that of His birth, and that of His death and resurrection.  The birth of Jesus means God coming in the flesh, for you and for me, to save us from our sins, even as the writer to the Hebrews writes, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Hebrews 2:14).

The death of Jesus by crucifixion on Good Friday means that your sin has been dealt with in a real way and that it can no longer condemn you, as St. Paul writes, “In Him,” in Jesus, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead means that you are no longer in your sins.

It means that your faith in the resurrected Christ is not futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).

It means that Jesus “has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:21-23).

St. Peter also writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Though the more familiar accounts of our Lord Jesus Christ might be that of His birth, death, and resurrection, not to mention the numerous works of God that He did before His death, like raising the dead, healing the sick, and casting out demons, and the wonderful Words which He spoke, less familiar might be the accounts of His early childhood, specifically, those early days of His life—those days shortly after His birth.

Of these days, St. Luke writes about in today’s Gospel.  Simply said, they are the accounts of 1Jesus’s presentation in the temple, 2the words of Simeon and his song which we call the Nunc Dimittis, and 3the account of Anna, who gave thanks to the Lord, having seen Jesus.

These three accounts serve as the outline for today’s message.

According to the Law of Moses, a woman who had given birth to a male child was considered unclean for a period of 40 days.  It was at this time that Mary and Joseph brought the child to the temple and gave their offering.  At this time, the first-born son was presented to the Lord.

As the first-born males of Egypt had died in the last plague before Pharaoh freed the children of Israel from their bondage in the Old Testament, so would the first-born males be redeemed by the sacrifice of an animal.

Now—the Sacrifice, He who would redeem—buy back—deliver, not only Israel, but Gentiles, all people—you—was being presented to the Lord, even according to the Law.

Being presented to the Lord in obedience to the Law, Jesus was The One who would redeem—buy back—deliver—you by His sacrifice, that you be acceptable to God.

In Jesus, you are acceptable to God, for He his The Sacrifice for your sins.

Through His blood, God cleanses you of all your sin once and for all (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).

Where sin is cleansed, “There is no longer an offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:18).

Jesus, coming into His temple—even as a baby just over a month old—is not without significance.

It is Jesus that we are talking about here(!), not a child conceived of man, but conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin.  Yet a baby Jesus at the time, none-the-less.

According to the eye, who would know Jesus to be the Savior of the World?

Who would know Jesus to be THE ONE through whom sin is forgiven?

Who would know that through Jesus, through that baby, there is peace with God?

Simeon was such a man, such a man who recognized Jesus for who He was.

He didn’t know this truth by sight.

He didn’t know that Jesus was THE ONE because of how Jesus looked, or because there was some sort of aura about Him.

Jesus appeared as any other baby boy that had been brought to the temple.

So how did Simeon know what He did about Jesus?

Was it through the local or the national news channel?

Was it through an emotionally, charismatically charged, excited televangelist?

Was it through e-mail or social media?

None of these, of course, revealed to single Simeon that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah come into the world.

It was by God’s Spirit alone that Simeon knew the identity of the child Jesus brought into the temple.

No other way would he have known.

No other way do you know the truth of Jesus’ identity except by God’s Spirit—God’s Spirit working through the Word of God—God’s Spirit working faith in your hearts that you believe in Jesus according to that Word.

It is through God’s Word that God makes known to you His will, that you forsake your will and tendencies and instead, to follow Him—to trust in Him alone and not in the things of this world, as tempting as they might be.

According to the Word of God, we know that Jesus is the Consolation, not only of Israel, but of all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

In Him, and in Him alone, is their rest on every side (Matthew 11:28-30).

In Him, and in Him alone, do you have peace within, even if everything else does not appear so.

Even as few believe the Words of our Lord, we pray that God give strength that we remain firm to the end.

We pray that the Lord work faith in the hearts of those who disbelieve, that they too know of God’s grace in Christ.

We pray that they too see Christ, that they not go according to what they see, what think they know, or according to disbelief, but take hold of the bare Scriptures and have them as they are, that they too see the salvation of God, even as we do, and even as Simeon did.

By God’s grace, Simeon received the promise of God and was ready to “depart,” even to die, “in peace”.

The Lord’s salvation in Christ gives such readiness.

We don’t know how old Simeon really was, but seeing the Lord’s Christ, the promise of God having been fulfilled, it doesn’t matter.  According to the Lord’s Word, any who are in Christ, regardless of age, are ready to “depart in peace”, for Christ is their peace.

Having heard the Lord’s Word, His promise of salvation fulfilled in Christ, the expected ONE having come, we too are ready.  You need nothing else—nothing else but Christ, and Him God has sent, Him God has given.

In our liturgies, we boldly confess having this Christ, even as Simeon had.

Note the location of Simeon’s song, also called the Nunc Dimittis, in today’s Divine Service, not yet sung.

The words in part read,

“Lord now You let Your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people.”

Such blessed words, parallel with those of Simeon who beheld Jesus and held him in his arms, are also those blessed words of those who behold the Christ in body and blood and bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar.

No mere ordinance keeping memorial meal at all here.

Jesus, giving His very body and blood for your salvation, the forgiveness of your sins.

We sing the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, because just as Simeon, so also do we see the Lord’s Christ in Holy Communion, according to the Lord’s Word.

His Word means something.

He says what He means and means what He says.

Only those of Christ and having faith in Christ, look to Christ for freedom from sin, death, and hell.  There is no other to turn to.  There is no other lasting comfort.  He alone is sufficient.  And for this ONE, Anna gave thanks to the Lord and spoke “of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem”.

The one who hears such words and believes, who has seen the Lord’s Christ and so confesses Him to be the Lord, can’t help but give thanks, as the Psalmist says,

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!” (Psalm 105:1-3).

The Lord Christ was brought into the temple according to the Lord’s will at that time by his parents, as recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel.

Anna, by God’s grace, was also given to see the child, as Simeon had.

With a thankful heart she spoke of Jesus—with a thankful heart because of the Lord’s kindness to her in making Himself known.

It is like this with you, too.

In Jesus, God makes known to you your salvation.

He makes known to you your peace with God.

This is all His doing.

Readily does our Lord do this—by means of His Word.

By means of His Word, you, like Anna and like Simeon, are given the very gifts God gives you—Jesus, Jesus—your hope—and Jesus—your Savior and salvation.

We close with words from Luther: “Whosoever has this Savior, the Savior of God, may have a peaceful, quiet heart.  For though death be as terrible, the sin as mighty, the devil as evil and poisonous as he ever will, yet we have the Savior of God, that is, an almighty, eternal Savior; He is strong enough to move us out of death into life, out of sin into righteousness.” Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, by means of Your Word alone, give me faith to believe Your Son to be my Savior and so rejoice in Him all my days. Amen.

 

The Visitation, Luke 1:39-56

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Luke 1:39-56

“Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” 46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.”

 

“And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:39)

Luther: God is not magnified by us so far as His nature is concerned—He is unchangeable—but He is magnified in our knowledge and experience when we greatly esteem Him and highly regard Him, especially as to His grace and goodness. Therefore the holy mother does not say: “My voice or my mouth, my hand or my thoughts, my reason or my will, magnifies the Lord.” For there are many who praise God with a loud voice, preach about Him with high-sounding words, speak much of Him, dispute and write about Him, and paint His image; whose thoughts dwell often upon Him and who reach out after Him and speculate about Him with their reason; there are also many who exalt Him with false devotion and a false will. But Mary says, “My soul magnifies Him”—that is, my whole life and being, mind and strength, esteem Him highly. She is caught up, as it were, into Him and feels herself lifted up into His good and gracious will, as the following verse shows. It is the same when anyone shows us a signal favor; our whole life seems to incline to him, and we say: “Ah, I esteem him highly”; that is to say, “My soul magnifies him.” How much more will such a lively inclination be awakened in us when we experience the favor of God, which is exceeding great in His works. All words and thoughts fail us, and our whole life and soul must be set in motion, as though all that lived within us wanted to break forth into praise and singing.

But here we find two kinds of false spirits that cannot sing the Magnificat aright. First, there are those who will not praise Him unless He does well to them; as David says (Ps. 49:18): “He will praise Thee when Thou shalt do well to him.” These seem indeed to be greatly praising God; but because they are unwilling to suffer oppression and to be in the depths, they can never experience the proper works of God, and therefore can never truly love or praise Him. The whole world nowadays is filled with praise and service to God, with singing and preaching, with organs and trumpets, and the Magnificat is magnificently sung; but it is regrettable that this precious canticle should be rendered by us so utterly without salt or savor. For we sing only when it fares well with us; as soon as it fares ill, we stop our singing and no longer esteem God highly, but suppose He can or will do nothing for us. Then the Magnificat also must languish.

The other sort are more dangerous still. They err on the opposite side. They magnify themselves by reason of the good gifts of God and do not ascribe them to His goodness alone. They themselves desire to bear a part in them; they want to be honored and set above other men on account of them. When they behold the good things that God has done for them, they fall upon them and appropriate them as their own; they regard themselves as better than others who have no such things. This is really a smooth and slippery position. The good gifts of God will naturally produce proud and self-complacent hearts. Therefore we must here give heed to Mary’s last word, which is “God.” She does not say, “My soul magnifies itself” or “exalts me.” She does not desire herself to be esteemed; she magnifies God alone and gives all glory to Him. She leaves herself out and ascribes everything to God alone, from whom she received it. For though she experienced such an exceeding great work of God within herself, yet she was ever minded not to exalt herself above the humblest mortal living. Had she done so, she would have fallen, like Lucifer, into the abyss of hell (Is. 14:12).

She had no thought but this: if any other maiden had got such good things from God, she would be just as glad and would not grudge them to her; indeed, she regarded herself alone as unworthy of such honor and all others as worthy of it. She would have been well content had God withdrawn these blessings from her and bestowed them upon another before her very eyes. So little did she lay claim to anything, but left all of God’s gifts freely in His hands, being herself no more than a cheerful guest chamber and willing hostess to so great a Guest. Therefore she also kept all these things forever. That is to magnify God alone, to count only Him great and lay claim to nothing. We see here how strong an incentive she had to fall into sin, so that it is no less a miracle that she refrained from pride and arrogance than that she received the gifts she did. Tell me, was not hers a wondrous soul? She finds herself the Mother of God, exalted above all mortals, and still remains so simple and so calm that she does not think of any poor serving maid as beneath her. Oh, we poor mortals! If we come into a little wealth or might or honor, or even if we are a little prettier than other men, we cannot abide being made equal to anyone beneath us, but are puffed up beyond all measure. What should we do if we possessed such great and lofty blessings?

Therefore God lets us remain poor and hapless, because we cannot leave His tender gifts undefiled or keep an even mind, but let our spirits rise or fall according to how He gives or takes away His gifts. But Mary’s heart remains the same at all times; she lets God have His will with her and draws from it all only a good comfort, joy, and trust in God. Thus we too should do; that would be to sing a right Magnificat. [Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 21 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 307–309.]

 

Prayer: Lord, visit us that we blessed by Your Word through Your Son, believe Your Promises, confess Your Name, live by faith, proclaim Your praises, and entrust ourselves fully into Your blessed care. Amen.

 

 

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