Behold, this Child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel.
Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”
But that same night the Word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build Me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?”’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over My people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
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.
Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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.”
About five days ago we heard about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, announced or preached by both angels from above and Shepherds here on earth. How God’s son was born of the Virgin, his name would indeed be the one who saves, God with us. They wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a Manger. Now on the First Sunday of Christmas, you most always hear fast-forward 40 days ahead of the presenting of Jesus as the firstborn son back to the Father in heaven and the purification of Mary, her reintroduction into church and society where she offers an offering with her husband. Shows their poverty, not a lamb, Jesus is the lamb they offer, but instead their poverty they can only muster a pair of turtledoves. So forty days after His birth they travel from Bethlehem. Few short miles, five or six, probably Mary didn't think it was a short trip, instead a big day to the temple in Jerusalem, the place that God dwelt between the cherubim. And they bring their baby son there to do what the law directs them to do as the holy scriptures declare.
Now in our day, there's a book called What to Expect When You're Expecting. What to expect the first year, what to expect the second year. I imagine there have been these books about parenting children for as long as there have been books. But for Mary and Joseph, there's only been one book written on how to parent the son of God and that would be the sacred scriptures, the patriarchs, and the prophets. If you can for a moment, you can consider your own nervousness to try to raise a child, especially a fragile baby. Much less what it would be to attend to the Father's son come down from heaven. So when the Scriptures say the father and mother marveled at what was said about them, for Him, or Mary pondered and treasured all these things in her heart, debating them with herself, you can imagine they were a bit worried to have entrusted into their care the very son of God who was and is the salvation of the whole world.
So we take it for granted the preaching that they were hearing concerning this child and we take for granted what it was doing for them as we rush to apply it to our world and to ourselves. But Mary and Joseph would never have taken for granted, at least initially, the Word of God that was preached to them concerning the child. So they would have been astounded, as the Scriptures indeed say they are, to hear what Simeon and Anna, out of the blue or to their surprise being filled with the Holy Spirit, had to say about this Christ Jesus, who was both in their arms and in their arms. His father and mother marveled at what was said about Him.
You know Simeons greater sermon well, you sing it nearly every time the Lord's Supper is celebrated, but also at funeral services; Lord now let your servant depart in peace, because my own cataract eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people, Israel. So the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon's sermon about being ready to even now meet his death because he's held the Lord Jesus, the world's salvation in his arms.
But especially this Sunday, this strange sermon to Mary, singled out; and a sword will pierce your own soul. They would have clung to preaching. So as you consider the nativity you can organize your thoughts and speak with your children in different ways about what the birth of Christ means for the world. You can consider the characters of the nativity, Mary, Joseph, Zachariah, Elizabeth, angels, shepherds, Magi, Herod, Bethlehem's people, and now today Anna and Simeon too. You can consider the places of the Nativity, David’s town, Jerusalem, the fields, the Manger, the arms of the people of God, the temple, even Egypt, as you speak about the birth of Christ for all the world. This one who is the Prince of Peace. And you can think about the speaking or the preaching of the nativity and what has been proclaimed and who have proclaimed it about the Christ. So today these two Christians, who've lived their lives in the presence of God at the temple, not young ones like the Shepherd's, but instead the elderly, who’re all too often overlooked and forgotten in our day, but not Simeon and Anna, by Mary and Joseph, or by the Father in heaven who gives them the Holy Spirit or by the Christ who blesses him there on that day.
Their preaching would have been a great help and wonder and maybe even consternation to Joseph and Mary for what was happening immediately then or what was to happen especially in the life of Jesus and particularly with regard to His suffering and His death. Their preaching would have served to strengthen them in faith, to challenge them where they were going astray with thoughts about who the Son of God would be, to put them on the right road, to bless them, and to build them up in their trust of the Father in heaven. The point of preaching is to contradict us when we would go a course that would be harmful to the name of God or to our Christian character or to others and to bless us by proclaiming what is true, to build us up in our trust that the Father in heaven indeed knows what He's doing, in our lives and in the world with his redemption that's given in his son.
So we consider today the preaching of Simeon who's ready to die as he holds Jesus and who singles out Mary and says a sword shall pierce your soul.
Now your person goes along with your word or so one would hope. Your character has something to do with what you have to say or at least we would hope. A Christian strives for integrity, to be true in their life, how they live it, and in their counsel how they say it. You know this to be true. People whose lives match their words you hold in high regard and people's whose lives don't match their word you think to be charlatans or not the indeed practicing may be what they preach. So the character of the preacher adds to the preaching or sadly enough takes away from the preaching.
So you consider the angels preaching, their character matches what they say. If the angel of the Lord or the Archangel Gabriel or the whole heavenly hosts told you not to be afraid because the Savior was born for you, their character would back up their preaching. When the humble shepherds, the young children, presumably or the adolescent, brought news that they had seen the ones who said glory to God and peace on earth, their childlike innocence would have supported their preaching. The Magi from afar with their wealth who say the Lord Christ is worth more than all the worth in the world, their character matches their preaching.
There’s preaching from the family of God to Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit and John in her womb to counsel her family, her cousin and there are souls from far off who come to speak to Mary and Joseph never having met them before, like Simeon and Anna. There are ones we regard well, who've been in the church their whole lives. These wise ones aren't to be passed over and forgotten but their council’s something we ought to rejoice. It'd be honored to have as a great gift to us and our lives, Christians who've long lived with all the comings and goings of the world and are yet hoping like Simeon in the consolation of the Lord Jesus.
But the character of a new Christian is also important. Their exuberance and energy, their zeal with the Gospel, it adds to the picture. Young children's childlike trust, to shame us who start to waver in our trust, there are strong ones, there are humble ones, there are all sorts of Christians who add to bless our lives with their preaching. Thanks be to God, for them. So Anna and Simeon are elderly, near unto death. Anna's age, at a certain point the gals get proud of their age, they don't hide it anymore. Anna's age is revealed as being long a widow and long in the house of her Father in heaven and her love for Jesus and her words would have been a great blessing to strengthen Mary and Joseph in faith. Like unto a Christian grandmother who wants baptism for her grandchildren, them to learn the Catechism, to say the Creed, and sing the great hymns of faith. So Anna takes up Jesus cause and praises him before all who will hear.
There's much to search and wonder at, at the preaching of the incarnation of our Lord and the character of those who are preaching. Christ Jesus is for the young, Christ Jesus is for those who are nearing death, Christ Jesus is for the poor— heck even his mother and father were that— Christ Jesus is for the rich. The character of the preacher matters and all Christians preach in the various places that the Lord Jesus has put them. So today we ponder the nativity according to what is said about the Lord Jesus.
So here Mary and Joseph, they're giving the son of the Father in heaven back to the Father in heaven, you'll think about Anna giving Samuel back to God, you could read about it in the first couple of chapters of First Samuel. As Samuel was given to God, all the more, the Father in Heaven's given his son to the world. But Mary and Joseph following the book they had, the Holy Scriptures, the best book to study, to raise children, took him to present him back to the Father. And their Simeon accosts them, probably not, surprises them, loves on them, absolutely so. Takes the child, is given the child, children bring people joy when they're placed in their arms. But oh the Son of God placed into his arms, whether he took him or was given him, to present him, and what he says how indeed they should marvel and we with them.
A sword will pierce your soul also, to the mother of God dear Mary. This isn't going to go quite like you hope it to be and parenting never goes just according to the father or the mother's plan. But most certainly it's going to be true for Mary it won't go like she hopes it will go for her son. Her son will follow the Father's plan for his life, he will cause the fall and rising of many in Israel, He’ll be a light to all the world, and salvation for those who hold him. But the Word of God is always consistent concerning our salvation, it comes at the price of the life of Jesus. So it is to Adam and Eve, He shall crush your head, your child the Lord Jesus Christ shall crush the devil's head but the devil will bruise his heel. The suffering of God is the path for our redemption. The bloodshed of the Lamb of God is what forgives sins and opens and doesn't close heaven. So from Simeon, in agreement with the prophecies of old, it sounds this way on that day, a sword will pierce your soul too.
God is so bound up with humanity. Jesus is so much so our brother that his suffering is going to cause agony, particularly for his mother. He's come so close to you and me to redeem us that he has a mom who will indeed weep over him when he hangs on the cross for the salvation of the world. Particularly a mother's joy is bound up in the lives of her children and a mother's sorrow bound up in the lives of her children, so it is true of the Lord Jesus Christ that his mother weeps over him and the church with her as he hangs for the salvation of all the world, or as his very life even as an infant unfolds.
The Word of God prepares you for happy times, eternal life, the glory of the Father, but that's not all the Word of God does. The word of God prepares you also for hardship and suffering as a Christian. To do what is right when you don't want to do it, to know that God is with you even in the midst of tears, when they will surely come your way, Jesus isn't just happy, happy, joy, joy, but he has a price that's big to pay and Simeon speaks of it when he tells Mary that she is going to suffer. It would help her almost immediately because after this Herod starts slaying all the little baby boys in Bethlehem, two and under. And how that must have affected Joseph, to spring into action, let's go to Egypt. And how that must have pierced Mary's soul to know that her son was more important than all other children ever born, but to also know that her son was the cause of the death of these martyrs. While yet praying that her son would indeed do something to avail for all these children who would shed their blood. And of course, the Lord Jesus did avail for them.
But when Simeon says a sword will pierce your soul, surely it almost immediately happened to Mary as they ran away to Egypt according to the words spoken to Joseph in a dream. And surely it hints at the death of Jesus for the salvation of all the world as Mary herself is still there at the cross. The Word of God says this will happen. The death of Jesus is no accident but it's the plan of the father. Maybe not the mother but it's the plan of the Father that Simeon might have a blessed death and enter with his soul unto life everlasting.
So then this preaching that a sword will pierce your soul also ought to cause us to consider that we have a soul. You don't hear too many people talk about the soul anymore. If you number them up, the Scriptures talk about the soul over 300 times. So if Simeon and the Holy Spirit says the death of Jesus is going to pierce Mary's soul it presumes that she has one, and all humankind has one with her. Especially Simeon’s good to talk about the soul and to remind us about it because the closer a Christian draws to their end in this life the more they consider the place of their soul and hope in the promises of the Word of God in its preaching. That our souls would be with the Father in heaven for the sake of Jesus, who's been given to redeem and save our souls.
Probably Mary particularly held onto the preaching of Jesus when he, her son preached about the soul, which he does fairly often. One such sermon he says don't fear the one that can destroy your body but instead be afraid of the one that can destroy your soul and body in hell forever. The body and the soul go together. Jesus own soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Which shows why his mother's soul also would be pierced. Her soul, your soul, my soul, bound up with the son of Gods soul that we might live forever.
We've been studying the book of Hebrews, it talks about our souls a whole lot, that Jesus is the anchor of our souls. That, He keeps us grounded when the world blows us here or when the world chimes at us there. Jesus is the anchor of our souls, the one who's redeemed our souls.
And then it says also the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to our soul. So the preaching of the church it affects our souls. The preaching of Simeon, the fact that Mary's soul, even as Simeon soul was well kept, as he had seen his salvation, all of us should be concerned for our souls and especially the older we get we ought to give thought to our souls and the holding the Lord Jesus Christ close that they might be fit for salvation.
Now as you know this sermon of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, it becomes your own, you sing it with your voice every time you receive the Lord's Supper. Lord now let 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 people. Today you'll sing Simeon’s sermon, you'll make it your own, your soul [being well kept by the body and blood of Jesus] which has been given to redeem your soul. You take up the preaching of old, you make it the preaching of today, that the Church of God has a glorious Gospel for the world and it's made of ours especially through the giving of the Lord's Supper, that those we love at our funerals might also sing of us that we have now departed in peace because Christ Jesus has been our salvation.
So Jesus was presented back to the Father, in poverty, that we might know the riches of heaven, to bless and strengthen us in faith today and keep our souls for everlasting life.
May your blessed Christmas-tide continue.