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Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas

“What Comes after Christmas?”

Luke 2:22-40

12/30/18

“What comes after Christmas?” Wind-down and wrap-up of the season of visits and festivities. “Christmas tree recycling center”  Good-byes to loved ones For some, a post-Christmas cold or flu may even set in; many at any rate experience a touch of “the blues.”

“What comes after Christmas?” Back to the routines of life, within our families, in our homes, where we work, where we go to school. “What comes after Christmas?” In short, LIFE!

“It was the same in Jesus’ time.” After that first Christmas, the shepherds had flocks to get back to, families to feed. After that first Christmas, Mary and Joseph had a baby to care for! They had duties and obligations. On the eighth day, as we will hear on New Year’s Eve, Jesus had to be circumcised. On the fortieth day, the event we heard about in today’s Gospel, Jesus had to be presented in the temple and a sacrifice offered for Mary’s purification. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that in time Joseph had to whisk Mary and the child Jesus away to Egypt to escape from evil King Herod. The birth of Jesus certainly did not put life on hold or stop the flow of events—some happy and some sad—which life in its normal course brings with it.

“And yet with Jesus here, the routine of life and the tasks of life are now suffused with the peace that He brings. That, beloved, is the eternal Christmas Gospel.”  Jesus was born into a fallen world. He was born into a world broken and sick. He was born into a world—our world—of deceit, selfishness, corruption, and death. Jesus, God’s own Son, was born here as one of us to bring redemption, to effect a reconciliation between mankind and God. He was born to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Since our sinfulness creates an obstacle to life with God, Jesus came to become sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), and so to bring us to God. By His work, Jesus created a new relationship of peace between humans and God. Jesus, as the prophet Isaiah said, was born to be the Prince—the “Prince of Peace.”

We repeat those comforting words in the Gradual for the Christmas season (see Isaiah 9:6). This peace that Jesus brings is what the angels had sung about on the night of Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God,” they sang, “and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).

We Christians sing about this peace in the Christmas carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels  Sing”—“peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”. God sent His Son to make peace with all, and with you. Therefore, if you believe that Jesus is your Prince of Peace who makes everything right between you and God, then your post-Christmas days will be filled with peace—His peace.

Consider our text. Simeon was a man longing for peace with God—for his nation and himself—and one day, led by the Spirit, Simeon found that peace as he encountered Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the temple. The family from Nazareth was there in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirement of God’s Law concerning the presentation of a firstborn male child, and the purification of a mother after childbirth. But they were also there so that the Holy Spirit could fulfill His promise made to Simeon—His promise that the man Simeon “would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v.26). When Simeon saw Jesus “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’” (vv.28-29).

Simeon said that he was ready to “depart in peace” because he had now seen the Christ child. He had seen with his own eyes the One who would do the hard work of Simeon’s salvation. Simeon believed God’s promise, and Simeon believed in the baby whom his eyes were now seeing, and so by his faith in Jesus Simeon enjoyed peace.

What comes after Christmas for you? Are there regrets; is there loneliness, fears, guilt, sorrow? Is there dread of getting back to the routine of life? With Jesus, there can be true peace for you. Every believing heart that trusts in Jesus pulses with the peace that Jesus brings—even in the midst of all that life brings. You know, sometimes it is asserted that the Bible, the preaching and teaching of the Church, and the doctrines of Christianity need to be more relevant to life. The reality, though, is that there is nothing more relevant to people of any age than God’s truth.

There is nothing more impactful for your life than the Gospel. Trust in the Gospel promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake is the only thing that can quiet a person’s heart and make living life a joy. It is the only thing that can give the heart peace as one faces the challenges of life or the reality of death. You know, most people assume that Simeon died shortly after holding Jesus in his arms—that his words “depart in peace” referred to his expected death. Still, it is possible that God gave Simeon many more years to live. In that case, God surely let Simeon live with true peace in his heart.

So we, too, who believe in Jesus have Jesus’ peace whether living or dying. Consider that after we receive Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion we always hear the pastor say, “Depart in peace,” and afterward we sing Simeon’s very words in the canticle we call the Nunc Dimittis. We know that through the forgiveness of sins received in this Sacrament, we have peace with God—peace to die, peace to live, and peace simply to be God’s children, for Jesus has brought us to God. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians 4, that Jesus came “to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this seventh day of the Christmas season, as the glow of Christmas continues to fade all around us, this is the message, and this is the truth for you and all God’s children: after Christmas comes peace, true peace, for you. For Christmas changed things. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth at Christmas, in the flesh like yours, was laid in Bethlehem’s manger, and in time hung on a cross to bring you to God. He died on the cross for your sins, for my sins.  He died for all those who have lived, are living, or will live. In daily repentance and trust in him, you find that your sins need trouble you no more. Relying on Jesus, you find that the unknowns of the future terrify you no more. All that the baptized believer like you sees, every day, is Jesus Christ. And Jesus stays with you, for He is risen, and His peace stays with you, constantly.

 It shall not be removed. It cannot fade. This festival we call Christmas, it is not just a blip, a blink of light, a passing time of celebration, although many people may see it as nothing more than this. Rather, Christmas is the celebration of the light of salvation that has come into our lives with the birth of Christ, the light of salvation that shines on and endures for us, the light that continues to drive out the darkness of sin in us.

Christmas is the ushering into the world of the great Prince—the Prince of Peace. Christmas is the celebration of the deep and permanent peace that God’s own Son has brought to us. Yes, and Jesus has brought us that peace right where we are and right where we are living, in the circumstances of our lives. His peace will accompany you through the close of this year and into the next—through every day that He gives you to live before Him by faith now on earth and at last in the unending peace of heaven. What comes after Christmas?

Life comes after Christmas—life in the peace of Jesus. Amen

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