Good morning! And congratulations on the birth of a Savior, born for us all! Babies brings changes and things were never the same for Joseph and Mary after that midnight birth. Those of you who have experienced the birth of a baby know all about that.
Not all babies survive birth, not all mothers survive birth. That also changes things forever. If you’ve experienced this kind of loss, you grieve it for the rest of your life. We need to remember to love and care for those who are living with this grieve this morning.
But for those that do survive – a new baby brings joy and hope and a lot of hard work – particularly for first time parents like Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph were told by and angel that this baby was the Messiah, the Son of God. But that didn’t change the exhausting demands that went with caring for him.
For example: How many times a night did Mary wake to nurse Him those first weeks after his birth? How many times did Joseph change his diapers or rock him to sleep while Mary tried to rest? How difficult was it to get out of the stable and into a house?
Why was caring for baby Jesus no different than caring for any other baby? 60 years later the writer to the Hebrews gives us some insight. He writes, “For this reason, he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Heb 2:17
I wonder how long it took for Mary to figure out that every task in caring for her new baby was truly holy. One of the gifts of the Incarnation is that God by his presence makes the most everyday tasks of our lives into holy acts of worship and service to God. Amazing!
Eight days after Jesus was born it was time for him to be circumcised and since they were only 6 miles from Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple. Probably there was no rabbi or priest available in tiny Bethlehem to take care of the simple task.
At that time he was officially given the name Jesus, Joshua, Yeshua in Hebrew, meaning “the Lord saves” – the name the angel told Joseph to give him. Then back to Bethlehem where they waited for the next 40 days, the period stated in the law for Mary’s purification.
Then when Jesus was 6 weeks old they returned to Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord. The Law stated the first born male of both men and animals belonged to the Lord. The animals were sacrificed and the boys were to serve the LORD throughout their lives.
An special offering was to be made to the LORD at this time for the purification of the mother and child. For most it was a lamb and a pigeon. But if the family was poor, two doves would be acceptable. Since Mary and Joseph brought two doves, we know how poor they were. Here again we see the meticulousness of Luke’s research.
While Mary, Joseph and Jesus were at the temple that day, an old man approached them, his name was Simeon. Simeon was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the promised Messiah and full of the Holy Spirit. The Lord had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ – the long awaited Messiah.
Moved by the Spirit, old Simeon went into the temple courts. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus forward for the ceremony, Simeon stepped up and took the baby in his arms and he began to praise the LORD… “Sovereign LORD, as you have promised, now dismiss your servant in peace - for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel!” Luke 2:29-32
Now I want you to imagine Luke as he hears this testimony. Luke is a Gentile. He’s also a historian, scientist and investigator. He’s been sent by a wealthy nobleman, perhaps in Italy, to investigate the truth about Jesus.
Listen to how he begins his Gospel. “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses… I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and written an orderly account for you…” Luke 1:1-3
Luke went to Jerusalem not more than 50 years after Jesus birth to investigate. He interviewed people. He gathered first hand testimony from the people who were there.
Imagine how the heart of this Gentile scholar must have leaped when he heard what old Simeon had said, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people (all nations) a light for revelation to the Gentiles…”
Me? This Jesus came to bring salvation to me! That’s the same message the angel brought the shepherds. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the peoples.” All the nations, people everywhere who will believe it and receive it! Even you, Luke!
But back to Mary and Joseph. They were shocked at what old Simeon said. Then he blessed them and said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce you own soul too.” Luke 2:33-35
In Chapter 12 of his Gospel, Luke’s extensive research quotes Jesus teaching his disciples. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops!” Luke 12:2-3
In other words, this baby will one day bring every secret out into the light of day. He will expose the sin and wickedness of every heart. That’s bad news for the schemers and manipulators and pretenders of this world. They might fool people, but they don’t fool God and a day is coming when they will be seen for what they are. What a terrifying day!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The truth is none of us are righteous. We need a Savior and we have one. But in order to access his mercy, we first need to quit pretending we’re something we’re not and come out into his light where our sin is exposed. Then we repent and ask forgiveness and he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. We become clean, pure, in his sight just as if we had never sinned. What an incredible day!
Jesus said, “When one sinner repents, all heaven is jumping around, shouting halleluiah and giving high fives to one another!” Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us!
Back to our story! Simeon concludes his prophetic word with a warning to Mary. “A sword will pierce your own soul, too.” This is the first warning given to Mary about the coming cross. There are two kinds of suffering parents experience in this world. The suffering that results from our children rebelling against God’s will and the suffering that happens because our children are in the middle of God’s will. Both can break our heart, but only one is tragic.
After Simeon left, an old woman approached Mary and Joseph. Her name was Anna. She was 84. She had been a widow for over 60 years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. And the HS spoke to her. Coming up to Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Did you know not everyone is looking forward to Jesus’ return? They are afraid it’s going to interfere with their action, cut into their profit margin, stop all their fun. For those folks I have some ‘good news’. It’s not Jesus’ purpose to cut into your action.
In fact, he’ll let you have your way. He’ll take his own and leave you alone. But the bad news is – all the stuff you’re banking on to produce your own little slice of heaven is going to wear thin. And you’ll spend eternity with nothing but your own regret for company.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that all this Jesus stuff is just about religion and all religion is the same – an irrational attempt to believe something we know isn’t true. But Jesus didn’t come to make you more religious. He came to save you from religion – putting your faith in something that isn’t true, something that is powerless to save you.
Like, trusting your wealth or wisdom or strength or success to save you! Or trusting in your own righteousness to buy your ticket to heaven! Jesus died so that you could live, no longer for yourself, but for him.
He was tempted in every way, just like us, except he didn’t mess up and therefore, he qualified as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because he was faithful even to death on the cross, something you and I couldn’t even pretend to do. God raised him from the dead and put him on the throne where he will judge the living and the dead.
If we come clean before him now, confess our sin, and ask him to help us, we will pass from death to life forever with him. But if we reject him, if we refuse, then we will pass from life to death. Luke checked it out, he did the research and he spent the rest of his life serving Jesus. So did Simeon, Anna, Mary, Joseph. How about you? What will you do with Jesus?