The Lord’s Salvation is Outside Us. Christmas 1 sermon.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 2:22-40
December 30, 2012
“The Lord’s Salvation is Outside of Us”
In the Name of Jesus.
On Christmas Eve the epistle reading from Titus said that “the grace of God” trains us to renounce “ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for Himself a people… who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
The proper fruit of receiving God’s grace and salvation is a godly life. Jesus died for us not so that we could sin without worrying about it, but so that we would be a people who are zealous to do good.
It is a great error that is causing incredible destruction in the Church to think that Jesus’ death for our sins means we now no longer should insist on any rules or standards in our homes, in society, and in the Church. It is true that religious people who are good about following the rules can easily become judgmental and self-righteous, like the Pharisees. But that does not mean that the rules should be gotten rid of.
You should go to Divine Service and hear God’s Word every Sunday and at other times when it is offered where your calling does not prevent you—that should be expected, while at the same time we do not look down on our brothers who falter in this area, but instead seek their blessing. You should learn your catechism by heart. You should have regular prayer and meditation on God’s Word in your homes while not despising and alienating brothers who have not yet learned to do this. It isn’t wrong for the church to set standards like this. In fact it is loving.
The church is not sinning when it requires you to behave with reverence in church. It wasn’t a sin a few decades ago when Missouri Synod churches expected people who wanted communion to announce and be examined by the pastor beforehand. This was not legalism. It was discipline. Our fathers in the faith knew well that outward discipline did not save people. But they also knew well how easily order in the home, state, and church could be destroyed by people claiming the freedom of the Gospel as their license to ignore good works and live in sin.
The gospel reading shows us today how the godly people who were waiting for the Messiah lived. They kept the requirements of the law, like Mary and Joseph, even though the baby in their arms was the Lord of the law who fulfilled the law and who would make the law’s requirements for purification after childbirth unnecessary. They continued in their lowly callings in Nazareth as carpenter, husband, wife, and mother, even though they were told by the prophets in Jerusalem that their child was the glory of Israel—that is, the Lord God in the flesh. Simeon spent his life watching and praying for the Lord to send His salvation. Anna lived as a widow for over 80 years and spent her life in the temple, constantly praying and fasting. Why did they go to all this trouble? Not because they were trying to save themselves, but because it was God’s will that they walk in His commandments. And because they believed God’s grace would come and that God therefore forgave all their sins, they gladly sought to live in the righteousness that He had given them in His Word.
This needs to be said because we live in a time where many people think the grace of God is license to sin and live an undisciplined life. How wicked our old Adam is, that he would try to use the grace of God as license and freedom to sin!
But at the same time we have another temptation. When we recognize our sin and ungodliness we begin to say to ourselves, “I’ll just try harder.” Or we see our continual failures in leading a godly life and we begin to despair and think that we are not saved or perhaps were never saved.
You should indeed repent of your sins and seek to do them no more. Wherever you neglect prayer, you should repent and seek to do so no longer. If you have been negligent in hearing and learning His word, you should turn away from your sin.
But fear of God’s wrath and the desire to turn away from sin and live a new life will not save us, nor will it in the long run enable us to change sinful habits—to become diligent and blameless in our callings, to pray and learn God’s Word. Only faith in the Savior does that. And that is not something human beings can do.
For this reason Simeon’s song is full of comfort for us who have tried to amend our sinful lives but remain sinners. The Nunc Dimittis, which we sing after communion each week, proclaims
The Lord’s Salvation is Outside of Us.
- 1. Jesus is God in the flesh—the glory of Israel, the light for revelation to the Gentiles—and He alone is the Lord’s salvation.
The glory of Israel—the promised one—and the glory in the cloud and fire
A light for revelation—again, Simeon is saying that this baby is God.
Simeon is ready to die because he has seen the Lord’s salvation. He has God’s Word. This child is the Lord God in the flesh.
- 2. The Lord’s salvation is an accomplished fact given in this little child.
He speaks of salvation as something done.
He undertakes a great exchange,
Puts on our human frame
And in return gives us His realm
His glory and His name.
My flesh is not completely renewed in me. But in Him it is perfectly renewed.
In Him it is finished.
- 3. Therefore devout Christians pray and watch and look only for Him, and thus participate in His kingdom and do good works.
“This is the work of God—that you believe in the one He has sent.” (John 6)
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will make known to them His covenant.” (Psalm 25? 91?)
Why did Simeon pray and watch for God’s kingdom to come, if God had promised it?
When He gives us salvation, God invites us to participate in His kingdom and act as His friends—to pray for Him to fulfill His promise and do His work.
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and spoke about his exodus at the transfiguration.
We don’t know all that God has planned, so we can’t see in the things that He brings about in our lives how he means to do us good or accomplish His purposes.
We do know that this child will be a sign that is spoken against, and that a sword will pierce the souls of those who love Him. He is spoken against because we say to trust Him alone and not our works.
When this happens, we pray, knowing His ultimate purposes even if we don’t know what is happening in our lives, what his purpose is there. Cf. mary and Joseph, who didn’t really understand how this was all going to work out. There was no coronation ceremony; they went back to Nazareth.
Like Simeon, He takes us into His counsel. Like Moses, sometimes he gives us a glimpse of the promised land. Like Anna, He uses us to bear witness and encourage and to bring blessing.
Like Simeon, we take up the Lord’s salvation physically. He comes to us in His body and blood, according to His Word.
And then even if we do not see how all the Lord’s plans work together for good for those who love God, we see His salvation–the glory of Israel in our human flesh–our righteousness and holiness, given into death for our sins, given to us Christians to eat and drink under the bread and wine.
- The Interruption. Christmas Midnight sermon 2012 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- “The Tent of the Son” Christmas Day Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Christmas Eve Vespers Sermon. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)