Vicar Kyle Krueger

A very Merry Christmas to you once again and a happy ringing in of the New Year in the coming days.  Ah yes, the Sunday after Christmas.   All the excitement of the season seems to have led up to Christmas day and the coming Christ Child- with angels announcing His birth, Churches being filled with all our favorite Christmas hymns and then the Sunday after Christmas.  It may seem like there is nothing left to talk about.  The story has reached its climax with the Virgin giving birth to the messiah proclaimed from the prophets of old.  God has become flesh and dwelt among us.  Maybe you have been to church more in the last week then usual (perhaps more then you wanted), so what could be left to talk about?  There is a lot left to talk about.

Vicar Kyle Krueger

A very Merry Christmas to you once again and a happy ringing in of the New Year in the coming days.  Ah yes, the Sunday after Christmas.   All the excitement of the season seems to have led up to Christmas day and the coming Christ Child- with angels announcing His birth, Churches being filled with all our favorite Christmas hymns and then the Sunday after Christmas.  It may seem like there is nothing left to talk about.  The story has reached its climax with the Virgin giving birth to the messiah proclaimed from the prophets of old.  God has become flesh and dwelt among us.  Maybe you have been to church more in the last week then usual (perhaps more then you wanted), so what could be left to talk about?  There is a lot left to talk about.

In our text we have the next chapter of the story.  A part that sometimes gets passed over on the first Sunday after Christmas, but it gives us a clear view of who this Christ child is.  We have the Infant Jesus being brought to the temple in Jerusalem.  He is brought there in accordance to the Law of Moses that all first born male children would be called holy to the Lord in the temple.  Now, we should observe this closely.  The temple is where God was present, where He had promised to be with His people.  And now we have the infant Jesus who is the new temple, meaning He is the very presence of God coming to the temple. The Son of God comes to His Fathers house.  Jesus coming to the temple is not an accident.  The story is moving forward and the plot begins to thicken.  God is pointing out very clearly who He is and how He reveals Himself.  Jewish Christians and those familiar with the Old Testament would be familiar with the movement of God’s presence.  God led the people of Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night out of Egypt.  God’s glory was visible over the Ark of the Covenant; it was in the tabernacle and the Temple.  God promised one day that there would be an even greater glory.  Malachi the prophet foretold of God’s messenger.  The Lord who is sought after will suddenly come to His temple.  That promise is fulfilled here as the King of glory comes into the temple.        

God revealing His presence to humanity can be seen as a good thing or it can be quite terrifying.  As Christmas Christians we often think about the presence of God being about joy and hope as we peer into the Holy manger, but some may be frightened about who God is and what He is really like.  There is a lot in our lives that we don’t want our closest family and friends to know about, let alone God.  God becomes like a giant Santa Clause in the sky.  If you are naughty He casts you into hell and if you are nice you will receive your reward in heaven.  But He is not a giant Santa Clause.  He is a humble Child, the Christ, the son of the living God who you worship.  All of creation bows down at this child’s manger.

Jesus did not need to be circumcised or presented in the temple for forgiveness from God, but He is placed under the law to be our sin bearer.  The infant Jesus in the temple gives us a glimpse into the fact that He is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice, which will take away the sins of the world.      

There are a lot of things that we want God to be like in our own hearts and minds.  God does not come to us through the fancies of our imaginations as we want Him to appear, but as a mere infant who had to be brought by His parents to Jerusalem.  Not exactly how we would think the story concerning the God of the universe should go. But you have to understand what God is doing in Jesus. God’s story is much better then we can ever imagine.

We are guilty of horrible sin as humans; we want to make God who we want Him to be.  We want him to follow our rules and live according to our standards.  We want to bring Him close according to our whims of spirituality and push him far off when it is convenient for our schedules.    When we go down this road there is no doubt that we begin to imagine a God like Santa giving out punishments and rewards according to who we are.  And with that the presence of God will become a thing to fear, for you will not know what God is really like.  Do not make up your own stories about God, but to listen to the one He has for you and what it is He wants to give you in the infant named Jesus still today.

It is no coincidence that males were to be circumcised on the eighth day or first born males presented in the temple on the fortieth day.  The eighth day is the day of new creation in the Old Testament and Jesus being presented in His temple on the fortieth day is to fulfill the Torah, the Law of Moses. These events mark the casting off of the old and the putting on of the new. 

The Apostle Paul makes the connection between circumcision and baptism in the book of Colossians.  “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  Paul still alludes to this at the beginning of our Epistle lesson with the phrase, “Put on then”.  Things that we put on in Baptism are such things as compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another… Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you…”  Baptism truly does something.  It makes our myths about God fade away and we have the new concrete story given to us.  He gives us our reward based upon what He is and does.  We put Christ on. 

God gives us Baptism the new place for God’s presence to be.  Just as the people of the Old Testament brought male infants to be circumcised and first born males to be presented to the presence of God in the temple, we as people of the New Testament faithfully bring our children to the presence of God in Baptism.  This is the place of new life.  This is where the exchange of who God is in all His righteousness and goodness is given to us lowly people who would rather make up our own God.  He becomes the sin bearer for us in baptism.  He judges us according to what He is.  

Jesus the infant in the temple becomes Jesus the crucified, and Jesus the resurrected.  God always has given us a place where He has promised to be for our benefit.  God becoming flesh living the perfect life under the Law, being crucified and resurrected become ours.  He is a God who is with us and for us. 

Upon seeing the infant Jesus, Simeon is so sure of what God has foretold in the Story of salvation.  Jesus is salvation and God has done everything out in the open for every people of every time to see in plain sight.  Simeon trusts this story and this child, he holds in his arms, so much that he is ready to depart in peace; he is ready to meet the end of his life!  Simeon is believing the promise of the word of the lord.  The peace that the angelic host proclaimed born in Bethlehem has come to Simeon.  That is the same hope and peace we have in Jesus.  Death is not a dark alley we walk into expecting never to come out of, but we depart with peace and assurance of what is beyond the grave.  

There is good theological reason we sing the Song of Simeon, The Nunc Dimittis, immediately after departing from the Table of the Lord. We behold with our eyes, receive with our mouths, and taste with our tongue the salvation of the Lord.  It is according to His Word that we receive what we do at this Table.  Jesus was the revealer of salvation to Simeon.  He is the same for you here.  God located Himself is the Temple in days of Old.  He reveals Himself in flesh for the entire world to see in the Christmas story.  He locates and reveals himself among us veiled with bread wine, and water.   The comfort and joy we reap from it has us not just depart in peace from this Church but also this life.  We have a God that in Christ we are not afraid of.  That God is our salvation.  We are made right before a righteous and perfect God because of Jesus.  Our eyes have seen His salvation that He has prepared in the presence of all peoples, now we may depart in Peace according to His word.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a