Sixth Day of Christmas + Luke 2:22-40
On this Sunday after Christmas, this sixth day of Christmas, we celebrate God coming down from heaven to become man. We give thanks that God has wonderfully created us and in the Virgin birth, has more wondrously restored our human nature to holiness and righteousness. It is our constant prayer, that we would ever live before God in righteousness and purity all our days. The Son of God became man to be like us and we are like Him. That which had been destroyed in the Garden of Eden, because of Adam and Eve doubting the command and promise of God, has now been restored, made knew, because of Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem.
When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus 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.”
In the Old Testament, it was the Law of God that a woman must offer a sacrifice of atonement, a sacrifice of repentance and forgiveness, to cleanse herself from the blood after giving birth. The shedding of blood, during childbirth, was a mark of death that required a cleansing and purifying sacrifice. Mary and Joseph, in holiness and righteousness, did just that. In faithfulness, Mary and Joseph, as husband and wife, offered two doves or two pigeons to God, that they would be right with God, that they would be found favorable with God. Notice, it was not just Mary who came, but Mary and Joseph, husband and wife, one flesh, together. Living in righteousness and holiness before God, Mary and Joseph went to the temple in Jerusalem, as God had commanded.
So too today, in our sin, we come to the temple of God, we come here, to the house of God, where God promises to dwell with us physically. Like Mary and Joseph, as husband and wife, we come to God’s presence and repent of our sins, we hear the words of the pastor, speaking peace to our hurting souls. We gather before the altar of God to make known the Lord’s death and resurrection until He comes again. Here, we participate in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Here, Jesus is the once and for all perfect sacrifice, whose blood sets us free to be people of God. No longer do we have to sacrifice doves or pigeons or lambs, Jesus’ death on the cross, is the ultimate sacrifice. Here, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we find favor with God. Here, because Jesus shed His blood, God has shown us mercy. Here, we receive a clean heart and a right spirit. Here, we are gathered into God’s presence, strengthened in faith toward God and love toward our neighbor. When we come to the Lord’s Supper and eat Jesus’ body, in the bread, and drink Jesus’ blood, in the wine, we are doing exactly what Mary and Joseph did, not offering a sacrifice, but receiving the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice: the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
In addition to the sacrifice, which they offered, Mary and Joseph also presented Jesus to God. They knew that their child was a gift, one that they did not deserve; and as was the Law of God, these parents fulfilled their duty by bringing Him to the temple. So too, in the Holy Baptism, we present our children to God, we bring our children to our Lord’s temple and altar. When we baptize our children, God the Father makes them His own, He is their father and they are His children, members of the family of God. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is given to the child. The Holy Spirit is given to the child and he is made a holy temple, a temple of God. In Holy Baptism, the child is right with God, he is given the gift of faith, his name is written in the Book of Life, heaven is his home. As parents, just like Mary and Joseph, we keep the command of God by bringing our children to be baptized, to be catechized in the faith, that they would finally come to the Lord’s Supper. We keep the command of God which is, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them to obey everything God has commanded and taught; lo I am with you always unto the end of the age.” This is the command and promise of God. This is the gift of God to us, to our children, and to all people; from generation to generation. It is not a choice that we give to our children, that they would receive God’s favor or not. Baptism, the teaching the faith, the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the forgiveness of sins, the Sacrament of the Altar, heaven. As parents, these are not things we want our children to choose or not to choose, these are the things of God; without which there is no eternal life and salvation. It is not a punishment to bring our children to baptism and catechism class and communion, it is a duty and responsibility. By this, we and our children live before God in righteousness and purity all our days.
Apart from these gifts of God, how could we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, how could we endure this vale of tears in which we live? Do we not want our children and grandchildren to be like Simeon in the temple, righteous and devout, waiting for the promised Savior to come into the world? And as he waited, as he endured, he trusted in God’s promise to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And with patience and confidence, when Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus into the temple, Simeon 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.” Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we sing after we come and receive Jesus’ body and blood in His Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, we get to taste and see and touch God. In the Lord’s Supper, we get to taste and see and touch God, knowing that He is good to us, slow to anger toward us, loving us forever. Do we not want this for ourselves, for our children, for all people? There is no greater gift than this.
Do we not want our children to be like the prophetess Anna, who was a widow, eighty-four years old. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And seeing Mary, Joseph and the the baby Jesus, she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. We too, like Anna, give thanks to God, telling everyone what He has done for us; from His Virgin Birth, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension into heaven, His coming again to judge the quick and the dead. We live by faith, trusting in what we have not yet see, thanking God for what He has done for us, is right now doing for us, and what He will do for us. In the holy name of