More / Book of the Month / Active Waiting / Luke 2:22–40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 27th 2020 / Christmas 1 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Active Waiting / Luke 2:22–40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 27th 2020 / Christmas 1 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Posted in Christmas / 2020 / ^Luke / Audio Sermons / Sermons / Pastor Ted Giese / Faith / Trust / Incarnation



Active Waiting / Luke 2:22–40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 27th 2020 / Christmas 1 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 27th 2020: Season of Christmas / Luke 2:22–40 "Active Waiting"

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now 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. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And 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, he 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.”

And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him. And 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 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And 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, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And 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.

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

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Sometimes things don’t happen the way you expect them to happen, for 2020 that might be the understatement of the year. Over the years I have had very elderly Christians ask me, “Why am I still here? Why hasn’t Jesus taken me home?” you see often they had expected that Jesus would have already done this for them but things aren’t going as expected. the answer of course is, “Well, Jesus still has things for you to do, God puts good works before us to walk in,”… occasionally they reply, “What can I do?” … “I’m old and I don’t get out of the home here.” To which I reply, “You can pray. Praying is a wonderful thing that we can do as Christians and you don’t need to run a marathon to do it.” I’ll also tell them that when you are not able to do much there is still much that needs to be done for you, so you become an opportunity for others to do good works for you. This is life. Should we discount the old the Gospel reading today doesn’t? Praise of God by those who have had a long life is lifted up as an example for us all.

Both Simeon and Anna, who we hear about in our Gospel this morning, are very old and in Simeon’s case the Holy Spirit had told him that he would not see death until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes, and in Anna’s case it was said that “[s]he did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” In some ways they were like the very old today in other ways they were different. Simeon and Anna were like the very old of today, in that they were both greatly advanced in years but they were different because they knew why they were still alive and didn’t ask the question of why they were still walking the earth. Simeon knew he would see the Christ and Anna knew the power of prayer.

St. Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10 sheds some light on this question of purpose for those who feel confined in their lives whether by age or mobility or heath challenges: Saint Paul writes to the Ephesians saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” That part you have heard many times, the next part is the part often left out, Paul continues writing these words, “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Today’s Gospel reading is an example of this very thing: When Mary and Joseph brought the Baby Jesus to the temple something was unfolding, God the Father had prepared a good work for Simeon and Anna to walk in. All this was set in motion without Simeon and Anna’s knowledge. Each of them praised God and spoke to others of this thing that had been shown to them.

We don’t often think that praising the LORD is a good work, or that God had prepared the opportunity for you to do such a good work in advance of you doing it; but praising God is a good work and He has prepared the opportunity for you to do so.

As Lutherans we don’t like to talk too much about ‘good works’ because so many in the world have messed up the understanding of good works both now and in the past. But if you take God pleasing good works out of the equation of how we are saved and look at them as a byproduct of being saved – then we can talk about them rightly. 

Let’s look at it this way: Did God the Father send Jesus into the world in the flesh because Anna prayed and fasted in the temple? Did He send Jesus into the world as its Saviour because Simeon was faithful to God? No, God the Father didn’t require Simeon or Anna to do anything in order for this great gift to happen. He didn’t even require Simeon to work at staying healthy so that he would be alive to see the Christ. God didn’t set limits of good and bad cholesterol, He didn’t give Simeon a strict exercise régime to follow and if Simeon followed it to a “T” then and only then would God the Father reward Simeon with the gift of staying alive long enough to see the Baby Jesus. God doesn’t work like that.

If staying alive to see the Christ Child was dependant on Simeon’s sinlessness or the quality of Anna’s fasting or prayers as measured by the Holiness of God the Father then they would never have lived long enough to see the Baby Jesus. What God gave them that day was a gift in the truest sense, just as it is a gift to you. Your knowing who the Christ is comes as a gift, if God had not made the incarnation known, if He had not sent messengers, angels to tell the good news, if that news had not been passed down generation to generation then you would not have come to faith. This is a gift.  

And seeing as it is the Christmas season it would be fitting to talk about gifts and the nature of gifts because the gift that Simeon is given is a little strange, it’s not unexpected in that Simeon was expecting to see the Savior, but it is unusual in the way it was given; when you step back and think of it. 

If God made it known to you by the power of the Holy Spirit that you would not die until you saw the greatest Hockey player of all time, in terms of scoring goals, you might expect to be in Edmonton in 1980’s in a hockey arena full of people, the puck zipping down the ice on the stick of an amazing player, then SNAP The puck hits the back of the net whizzing past the goalie, and after a couple more goals and a couple assists suddenly everyone would agree he was ‘the great one.’ What you wouldn’t expect is for Phyllis and Walter Gretzky to hand you a baby in the church narthex before the Divine Service in 1961 and for you to suddenly realize that that baby would become the greatest Hockey player of all time. We expect to see results before we believe something – we like the phrase “I won’t believe it until I see it.” This is why Simeon’s reaction is so strange to us: Simeon is not like the Roman Soldier, the centurion at the foot of the cross who looks up at Jesus and the events taking place around him and overwhelmed by the evidence says, “Truly this was the son of God.”[2]

To most people Mary and Joseph holding a baby in their arms at the temple would look like nothing had happened yet many people every day would be coming into the Temple to do the same for their first born sons. . This is the Now not Yet; that the presence of Jesus alone began the saving work of God: As a baby in the womb, as the baby in Bethlehem, as the baby at the temple with Simeon and Anna, as the child visited by Magi, as the child whisked away to Egypt out of the clutches of a murderous king, as a boy in the temple, on the banks of the Jordan baptized by John the baptizer, as a Man in the wilderness tempted by Satan and so on and so forth until on Good Friday Jesus does the mighty work of Salvation giving His body and blood for you as He hangs on the Cross dying for your sin, Three Days later Jesus leaves behind Him an Empty Tomb, forty days latter His feet leave the ground as He ascends into heaven – in all these things Jesus is working out our salvation but the road had to start somewhere. So it was on that road, that Simeon sees Jesus, the little baby working His way, even then, towards the cross. 

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us what Simeon expected to see as he waited to see the messiah, and while it looked like nothing had happened yet, Simeon knew that something miraculous had already taken place, God had taken on Human flesh and was now True God and True Man simultaneously, He was dwelling amongst us, this One called Jesus was the long expected Messiah – in and of its self this was stupendous, amazing.

The Bible doesn’t tell us when Simeon died after seeing Jesus, the Bible doesn’t tell us what other good works God the Father had in store for Simeon or for Anna, and this leaves us with a question: After all that you have been shown, after God’s work in revealing to you (by the power of the Holy Spirit His Son Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour) what sort of good works has He prepared in advance for you to do as we look towards 2021? What sort of praise, what sort of proclamation of the Truth? Not that these future works could ever win you salvation, that was won by Christ alone upon the Cross, but rather what will God have you do? What sort of unexpected gift will you now give to others when the world around us opens up again and we are able to do more for each other? Does Jesus still have things for you to do? Remember, sometimes things don’t happen the way you expect them to happen.

At the graveside of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are buried after their rest in Christ has come to them one of the first thing we read is the song of Simeon,

“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.”

These words are the hope of all Christians, that as they enter into their rest in Christ that they would be seen by God the Father as faithful servants who walked in the good works placed before them, that in knowing Christ we too will see Him in the End, that in knowing Christ we may help others know Him. Does Jesus still have things for you to do? Remember, sometimes things don’t happen the way you expect them to happen. Expect the unexpected. This is something we are all getting good at – Regardless of our age, let us continue to walk into the year to come, trusting the one who leads us, trusting that the LORD has prepared the way ahead for us, in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Ephesians 2:8-10
[2] Matthew 27:54

Photo Credits: Hands With Watch by Travis Essinger from Unsplash; Mother With Child by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels; Baby Hand With Old Woman Hand by Rod Long from Unsplash; Detail from Photo of Hockey Players by Pixabay from Pexels; Hands Holding Baby by Jill Sauve from Unsplash; Baby Hand with Fingers by Anna Shvets from Pexels


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