Archive for the ‘Luke 2:22-40’ Category


Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Epiphany Year (C), January 6, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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““Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.   For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isaiah 60:1-6]

Luther’s Large Catechism states: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in him and receive him as Lord,  unless these were offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished  and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained  hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put  to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply  to us this treasure, this redemption. Therefore being made holy is nothing else than bringing us to the Lord Christ to receive this  blessing, to which we could not have come by ourselves.”

This morning, through our gospel lesson (Matthew 2:1-12), we will examine four questions: 1. Why do some not see Jesus as the Son of  God? 2. What is it that causes some to see Jesus as the Son of God? 3. Why do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? 4. And finally,  because we do believe, what difference should that make in our lives?

(The Great Pretender music plays for a moment).  The song you just heard was “The Great Pretender” by the Platters.  I chose it as our mental hook to not just set this morning’s message on, but I also thought that it would be a great theme song for King Herod, and all other pretenders and enemies of the church.  Of course the first pretender, and the greatest Pretender of all, was Satan himself.  After his fall from heaven, he has been using deception and tricks, pretending to be something great, so that he can take the hearts of men and women off of their only hope; the Great Savior, the Messiah Jesus Christ.

King Herod was led away from the truth in the same way; his eyes were misdirected off of the promises of God, through the Word of God, and instead his trust, his security was placed in the government of men, at that time the Roman Empire.  When the wise men from the east were brought to Herod because they were asking everyone and anyone within the city of Jerusalem where the child who was born King of the Jews might be found, what was Herod’s response?  “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  Worship him; really?  As we know from scripture, Herod wanted to know where the child was so that he could have him killed!  Oh yes, Herod was an evil pretender!

And what of the chief priests and scribes?  “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:  “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”   Do you see that?  They knew exactly where the child would be born.  And if He had come, as the wise men suspected, and if scripture was being fulfilled, why didn’t they go to see for themselves?  Because they were putting their hope and trust in their wealth and their position.

Sadly today things are not any different with the many pretenders that live among us.  They will pass themselves off as wise men, but really they are only “wise guys;” they are wise in their own sight.  They place their trust in knowledge and learning, but have no time for the wisdom of God; the miracles of God that alone lead to eternal life and salvation.  They will tell us that the story of the wise men following the star is simply a fable; a child’s story.  They will tell you that no star could behave the way this one did; appearing, disappearing, and reappearing, hovering, moving, and settling on one little house in Bethlehem.  And they are right; no star in the heavens could do that, but a light sent from God to lead people to the Savior of the world could.  They dismiss the miracle of the light, and when they do they also dismiss the miracle of the baby God-man, the Savior of the world.  But there were learned men who did allow the light of God to lead them, and they went from wise guys to wise men.

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”   Behold… or in the Greek, idou.  Today, the young folks might say “check it out!”  Whenever that word idou appears, we have what we might call an “ah-ha” moment.  It means that God is intervening in the time and history of men in order to do something wonderful.  It means that He is acting in a miraculous way, so that sinful men, wise guys like Herod, the Sanhedrin, and chief priest, and you and me, won’t be mistaken; it means God is serious and He has something that everyone better take note of.

You know, like when Joseph the husband of mother Mary, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly, (and) behold (idou), an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:19-21]  Or, how about this one:  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold (idou), I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:8-14]

Imagine, God chose to tell the good news of a Savior for the people of Israel, to dirty no good sinners; foreign and pagan idiots who accumulated a lot of knowledge but no wisdom.  This was an affront to the good people of Jerusalem, the God-fearing Jews.  After all this was their Savior, the one that they were waiting for, so why did God invite the Magi?  He invited them so that they might see the Word of God, the prophecy of God in Micah fulfilled and become part of God’s people; part of the people of faith that He would shepherd.  He called them after He said “idou”.  Idou, all who hear; listen, repent, believe, and be saved.  So He called the Magi and they listened, they became wise onto salvation, but Herod, the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin, would not listen, so they just remained wise guys.

God is still calling out to sinners; He is still bringing light into darkness.  And today, wise men, illuminated by the miracle light giving God still listen and find Jesus.  They allow God to lead them out of the darkness and into the light, because they see a need for a Savior and a new beginning.

You too have had your idou moment; in fact you are having one now, as the Word of God continues to change and rearrange you; you are being asked to behold your God who is with you!  It first started long ago in your baptism, when God reached into the darkness of this sinful world, into the darkness of your own sin and saved you.  It was there in those holy waters that He first gave you the gift of His Son, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified upon the cross for the sins of the world, died and was buried.  But just as on the third day He arose, so to, you out of the waters of your baptism arose a new person; holy, blameless, and righteous, simply because that was God’s will for you.

And now, you live out each day a person who is wise and is becoming wise unto salvation.  You are asked every day to put to death that great pretender, the wise guy, who was drowned in baptism, hung on the cross at Golgotha, and then allow the Word of God to illuminate you with His idou, His gift of Epiphany to you.  The days of pretending are over; each day as you are led by God’s light, you are learning to agree with Him that there is nothing good or wise within you accept for the things He gives to you.  And what is the result of this work of God within a child of God?  As your shepherd, He is leading you into worship and witness!

We worship Him when we come to Him here in church and lay before Him our time talent and treasure.  We worship Him when we simply are still, hear Him speak and know that He is God, our God.  We worship Him when we agree that there is a way that seems right to sinful men, wise guys, but in the end it leads only to death.  We worship Him when we hunger to hear His Word, His message of forgiveness.  And then in the middle of worship, behold (idou), He moves us away from this place, but not His presence, into a world dark with sin, to simply live and let His light illuminate both us and other pretenders who need to know the mystery of God.  The wise guys, the pretenders who are foreign to God are also invited to be fellow heirs, members of the same body (our church) and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, the message of forgiveness. [Ephesians 3:4-6]

Dear friends, this was a message that once was hidden in the darkness of sin to even you, but now you have received the light of God, the message of God that has made you wise unto salvation.  This is the message that changes sinful pretenders into redeemed children of God; it is a message that changes “wise guys” into wise men and women.  It worked and is working for you; it has saved you!  And it is God’s desire that the message of forgiveness would save not just you, but also your family, friends, and neighbors too.  I pray that you will continue to follow the light of God and invite others to follow Him as well, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

A Peaceful Departure

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

First Sunday after Christmas Year (C), December 30, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

““Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lords Christ. [Luke 2:25, 26]

Merry Christmas dear Christians!  In our gospel reading we remember the presentation of our Savior Jesus Christ; a time when He was  only eight days old.  But even then as a small baby, He was true God and true man; He was already the Word of God in human flesh.  The  same living Word of God who spoke these Words of comfort: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you  the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). In other words, stop fearing that thing which you fear; do not fear it any longer. Your Father has been  pleased to give you the kingdom.

Many Christians today, still fear earthly death; their own death and the death of loved ones. But how can this be, when we who are  baptized confess the certainty of life after death each and every Sunday when we speak about “the resurrection of the body” in the  Apostles’ Creed and “the resurrection of the dead” in the Nicene creed? And still, some of us fear death, and “grieve as [do] the rest of  men, who have no hope”? (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Did you ever stop to think that the fear of death, is like a sermon that we’re preaching to the world; it’s a message that says that we  aren’t any better off than those without Christ; by our fear, we are teaching that God can’t be trusted. Instead of displaying confidence in the certainty of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake, we are demonstrating instead a life of doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of faith or hope in the peaceful departure our God has promised us. When you live a life of fear and uncertainty because of death, you are proclaiming a false gospel about a false god who can’t be trusted, and not the story of the living God who has already acted to give you eternal life.

And so this morning, let’s consider Simeon, a man that God declared righteous and devout.  Why was he righteous and devout?  Was there something great about him?  Was he a great leader or a man who stood out in the crowd?  No, not at all, in fact we can assume that because scripture mentions nothing about him before he met the baby Jesus, he was simply ordinary; ordinary except for one thing… he was waiting for God to fulfill His promise that a Savior would come to take away his sin and make Him right with God.  And because he had faith to trust God’s promise, God declared him righteous.  You could say that He had faith in God’s faithfulness; he knew that God would do what He said He would do.  But how did Simeon become so faithful?  Friends, the very same way you become and stay faithful… through the word of God that promised him that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had come.

You have the very same promise, and you also have had the promise fulfilled.  In your baptism, God’s Word not only promised you a peaceful departure from this dark world of sin, but it provided the fulfillment of the promise.  Christ has come, and in your baptism you have been clothed with not only the righteousness of Christ but also the promise that He will come again for you!

But we have a problem; we are told by this world that being assured of a peaceful departure is not that simple.  Not only do we have other religions who resent and ridicule our blessed assurance, but in fact we have people who call themselves Christians who want us to believe that there must be a little something added to the promise besides our belief.  They tell us that we must do more than just trust in God’s promises.

They will point out that we are still very much trapped in our sins, and the proof of that they say lies within our own hearts, which testify against us and about our sinfulness.  They will insist that we follow certain rules and regulations in order to know that God loves us.  Or they will tell us that our own love and service of love must be great in order to finish what God started in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They will even insist that we acquire certain gifts or demonstrate certain acts of faith in order to know the real blessings of God.

But, when others talk like this to us, it is only evidence that it is they who do not understand God’s plan of salvation; they don’t understand what true forgiveness of sin is because they are so caught up in their own idea of what righteousness is.  They don’t understand that it is God’s Word, which calls each of us who are trusting in Christ alone His saints, or people of God.  It’s a shame that they have forgotten who we are, that we are saints already, because to forget this is the same thing as forgetting our baptism and the faithfulness of God to do what He says He will do.

These folks who claim to be our brothers and sisters, really only want to punish us with heavy consciences and guilt because of the sins they commit and think are to many or to big for God to forgive; they love to remind us that our sins are an offense to God because it helps them forget about their own sinfulness.  And instead of turning to God’s faithfulness and love they want to turn us to the same thing that they hope in… our own resourcefulness and strength.

And to this thinking, let me quote Luther’s response to the same faithless logic.  He said that just as “Motherly love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on (her) child, so the love of God toward us is stronger than the (sinful) dirt that clings to us.  (So, even though) we are sinners, we do not lose our relationship to the Father on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sins.”

And that dear friends moves us to the solution of the problem; the very thing that Simeon declared in a song that the church calls the NUNC DIMITTIS.  “O Lord now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace.”

In God’s Holy Word and in the Blessed Sacraments He shows us Jesus; He shows us His glory.  In the infant Son of God holy and lowly, born in a manger in Bethlehem, God shows us His love for us by showing us the solution to our sin; He shows us the God-man crucified, high and lifted up upon a cross in Jerusalem.  You dear saints are more blessed than Simeon; he had only the promise of what this child in His arms would do, but you know the story completely.  He had the promise but you have the fulfillment of the promise.  And even more than that you have yet another promise from the God who does what He says He will do; He has promised you that He will come again to take you to be with Him in paradise.

Whether He comes for you on the last day of all creation or comes to you in your final moments at death is immaterial; He has promised you that He will take you home to be with Him!  And it is to the promise fulfilled and the promise still unrealized that we grab onto to by faith.  You are asked to live a life and tell the story about God’s faithfulness so that others may believe and be saved as well.

What is it that we are supposed to speak and model?  Well what did Simeon say?  Didn’t He say that He had seen God’s saving grace that He had prepared for all the people?  Didn’t he say that this message, this good news was to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of God’s people Israel?

So the message we are to live and speak to the world isn’t one of fear and trembling but faith and rejoicing.  We are to hold on to both the promise and the One who promises in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior.  If we fall into sin, He will be there to pick us up again; by His Word, He encourages us to keep on fighting our sin until we are finally given victory over not just our sin but even the devil and our own death.  When we fall into sin we will remember our Savior who though He fell under the burden of the sin of the world that was place upon Him through the cross, He got back up and made His way to Golgotha, where He suffered and died to take away even our sin.  When we feel filthy and unloved because of those same sins, we will remember the life giving and life changing waters of our baptism that washed us clean and made us forever holy.

So you see dear friends, our Christian faith truly is different from all other religions; it is different because it isn’t based on what we will do, but on what Christ has done.  It is different because our faith in God’s faithfulness grows stronger, even in the middle of evil and sin; even in the face of death.  But we also remember that without God’s Holy Spirit ever providing and strengthening His gift of faith through His Holy Word and sacraments, we would be just as lost as any other sinner.

So when others belittle you for your child like faith, and when they try to rob you of the joy of your salvation, turn away from anger and fear, and feel godly sorrow for those who can only trust in their own resourcefulness for hope.  And by faith, turn to and trust in a Faithful God and say, “Through Jesus Christ, I am a child of God.  And as His child all of my works that are done in faith are good.  And even when my good works are lacking, God’s Word promises me that He will not condemn and leave me, but continue to change me until I lack nothing according to His good and perfect will.”

This is the message that many find so hard to accept and receive this Christmas season, but it is the only message that will give to both sinners and the dying, a peaceful departure.  It is a message that you dear saints live out and trust in by faith, and it is marvelous in the sight of God and His church…AMEN!