Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, we associate ‘two turtledoves’ with the second day of Christmas because of a catchy Christmas song. A pair of turtledoves is mentioned in the Gospel reading with a much different association. Before Christ, two turtledoves were sacrificed to the Lord after the birth of a firstborn child. The Law of Moses commanded that “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.’” Leviticus commanded that a mother of a firstborn “shall bring to the priest a [one year-old] lamb.” If the mother cannot afford the lamb, “then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons...And she shall be clean.” This was the reality for people living in the Old Testament. This was the reality for Simeon and Anna.


Simeon lived in Jerusalem. St. Luke called him “righteous and devout.” Simeon received a revelation from the Holy Spirit: “He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Generations and generations of prophets and their prophecies were handed down to Simeon about the coming Christ. Simeon was promised to see this with his very own eyes. For any person living in the Old Testament, this was the Gift of gifts.

First Sunday After Christmas, December 28, 2014
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, we associate ‘two turtledoves’ with the second day of Christmas because of a catchy Christmas song. A pair of turtledoves is mentioned in the Gospel reading with a much different association. Before Christ, two turtledoves were sacrificed to the Lord after the birth of a firstborn child. The Law of Moses commanded that “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.’” Leviticus commanded that a mother of a firstborn “shall bring to the priest a [one year-old] lamb.” If the mother cannot afford the lamb, “then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons...And she shall be clean.” This was the reality for people living in the Old Testament. This was the reality for Simeon and Anna.


Simeon lived in Jerusalem. St. Luke called him “righteous and devout.” Simeon received a revelation from the Holy Spirit: “He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Generations and generations of prophets and their prophecies were handed down to Simeon about the coming Christ. Simeon was promised to see this with his very own eyes. For any person living in the Old Testament, this was the Gift of gifts


Another person living in the Old Testament that shared in this gift was a prophetess, Anna. She was a widow advanced in years. In Anna’s society, women were valued by their husband’s work. Furthermore, she was unable to bear children. Being an elderly widow she was socially imprisoned in many ways. Yet, despite her circumstances, “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”  


In the eyes of others, Simeon and Anna were considered to be living lowly lives. Yet, despite being sinners they received cheerful joy in the hope and expectation that God gave them.  They devoted themselves to the Word of God and prayer. They were given a full life in the joyful hope in the coming Christ.     


At the first Christmas, Simeon and Anna were brought to perform “everything according to the Law of the Lord.” The Hebrew word for “law” is “Torah,” which means “instruction.” The New Testament word for “law” is translated “usage” or “custom” After the birth of Jesus, Simeon and Anna performed everything according to the usage or custom of the Lord. People living in the Old Testament, that understood the covenant, did not consider following the Law of the Lord a burden. Instead, the Law of the Lord brought redemption to the people. They were given instruction to be in accordance with the custom of God. This was a gift from God. Yet, they were given a revelation, by God through prophets, of a greater gift that was to come.


At the first Christmas, Simeon and Anna received the greater Gift. They were able to see and hear and hold the Torah incarnate. They were able to see and hear and hold redemption in the flesh. The custom of God did not need to be performed for Jesus. He didn’t need a sacrificial offering of a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons to make Himself right before God. This firstborn Son was the Lord of Lords! Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law. He perfectly obeyed the law out of love, not obligation.


By the Father’s will, Jesus was born under the Law. The Christ came in full humility. The performing of the Law at the birth of Jesus did not offer the prestigious offering of a lamb, instead lowly turtledoves or pigeons were offered. Isaiah prophesized in our Old Testament reading, “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” Jesus is the righteousness and came as the poor. He came as the meek of the earth to redeem those who were under the Law. 


As Simeon took Jesus up in his arms, he 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…” Simeon’s words revealed that he has been freed. He was seeing more than the Law of the Lord. He had seen the fulfillment of the Law. He was freed. Salvation entered the world as a baby. The Christ, as man, freed the people of the old covenant. Simeon was holding the new covenant. This was the new reality.


Today, we live in this new reality. We are people who live in the New Testament. We have a new covenant with God. Yet, like many of those in the Old Testament, we fail to recognize the gifts of God. We mistake God’s gifts as burdens. We view those who resemble Simeon and Anna as living lowly lives. We fail to see people as God does. We see those who are humble and poor in spirit, and we judge them. We are driven and defeated by our passions and desires and become imprisoned by our sinful condition. We have become enslaved to man-made laws and the elementary principles of the world. The custom of the world is full of superstitions and turning the natural into supernatural. The world dominates us with uncertainty and fear. For it is not the ones who we pass judgment to that live lowly lives, but it is ourselves that live a lowly life of sin. It is ourselves that leave the Law of God abandoned. 


This Christmas, God gives us the Gift of gifts. Jesus came to us in humility. He has lifted us out of the lowliness of sins, by living a lowly life for us. He perfectly fulfilled the Law. In this gift, we receive a cheerful joy of hope and expectations given by God. The Son of God came as a slave to free us from sin. He was not defeated by sin, but defeated sin. He overcame death so that we are free to live eternally. “He [struck] the earth with the rod of His mouth [and cried out, “It is finished!”] And with the breath of His lips He [killed] the wicked.” The Son of God came “so [we] are no longer slave, but sons [or daughters], and if a son [or daughter], then an heir through God.” Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God does not “judge [us] by what His eyes see.” He judges us by what His eyes see in the Christ. This means we can cry out with the voice of Jesus, “Abba, Father!” This is our new reality.


Our reality is a reality where death has been conquered. Our reality is a reality where sin does not have the last word, but Christ does. Our reality is a reality of a Law fulfilled out of love, not obligation. Jesus has given us a cheerful hope and eternal life because His perfect fulfillment of the Law is now our perfect fulfillment of the Law. We are not judged by what we have done, but what Christ has already done for our gain. We live under a Law of Christ’s love and grace. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we share in this reality with all saints in the Song of Simeon. “Lord, now let Your servant for in peace; Your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepares in the sight of every people.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a