Why Did You Come Here? What Do You Seek?
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The text for today is our Gospel lesson, Luke 2:22-40.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
|The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord|
Why are you here? What do you seek? Why did you come here, to this place of worship, on this day? What do you expect or hope to find here? Those are important questions because someone (even with “good intentions”) could come naively here for the wrong reason. Or because a seeker, whose particular desires are contrary to God’s will and Word, might come to this place hoping or expecting to find what he or she wants.
Examples of such false expectations, wrongful motives, or selfish desires? To come here as a matter of course, merely out of habit. To try to impress other people with your personal piety. To get your parents or spouse off your back. To build up heavenly reward points for the number of trips you’ve made to be here. To seek to appease God’s wrath with your good works. To gain leverage against God that you will pull out as a trump card on Judgment Day. To be uplifted and motivated toward greater success. To learn the secret to contentment or the seven habits of spiritual success. To feel better about yourself and your life.
Enough? How about one more?—to hear these examples in a sermon and still think they simply apply to others, that none of them apply to you, that you are somehow exempt from such natural inclinations of your old sinful heart and from such unchristian thoughts in your head.
Why are you here? And what do you seek? Consider what is God-pleasing, what is taught as such in His holy Word. Take a look at the others who have come to the holy house of the Lord throughout the years. Do you see them? Husbands and wives… families… singles… widows… a baby… newlyweds… new parents. Why have they come here? What do they seek?
Do you see that woman over there? Her name is Anna. She’s a faithful widow of 84 years, who hangs around the temple day and night. In addition to being the first prophetess mentioned in the New Testament, Anna’s also quite remarkable in that she’s one among only a few believers left of the ten lost tribes of Israel—the tribe of Asher. Why is she here in the temple? What is she seeking?
Well, she is one of the remnant in Israel looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Anna’s hope is in the Lord God and she awaits Him in the place where He has promised to be found in His grace and mercy. For He has said through the mouth of His prophet, “Behold, the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple” (Malachi 3:1). Anna worships “with fasting and prayer night and day.” Thus, Anna dwells in the house of the Lord all the days of her life, awaiting the real presence of the world’s Redeemer.
Do you see them? Husbands and wives… families… singles… widows… a baby… newlyweds… new parents. Why are they here? And what do they seek?
How about that man over there? His name is Simeon. St. Luke does not tell us much about him: whether he is young or old, or whether he is clergy or laity. But he does tell us this much: Simeon is devout and righteous. In other words, the Holy Spirit has worked faith in his heart.
So, why is Simeon here in God’s house? And what does he seek? Well, dear friend of God, Simeon is looking for the consolation of Israel ... for the hope and comfort of the Church. Indeed, in a wonderful promise that is marvelous in our eyes and music to our ears, “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Thus, this day, Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple.” Why the temple? Because the Holy Spirit said through the mouth of Malachi, “Behold, the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple” (3:1).
Look at the others gathered in God’s holy place. Husbands and wives… families… singles… widows… a baby… newlyweds… new parents. Why have they come here and what do they seek?
Mary is here. She is a wife, a newlywed, married less than a year. She is a mom, having given birth to her firstborn, a son born forty days ago in the little town of Bethlehem. Why is she here; and what does she seek?
Mary is here for her purification according to the Law of Moses. Mary needs a sin offering to be made for her so that she might be clean. Moses wrote in the book of Leviticus: “This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering, and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean” (12:8). Thus Mary gladly and willingly receives this Word of the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior.
Joseph is also here. He is the husband of Mary. He is a dad, having been entrusted with a son not from his own loins, but rather the Son of God incarnate of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Joseph is the baby’s legal father. On the eighth day when the Infant was circumcised according to the Law, Joseph named Him Jesus according to what had been told to him by the angel—“for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Now Joseph has brought his family to the temple in Jerusalem.
Why is he here and what does he seek? As the pious head of the holy family, Joseph seeks to do what is good and right and according to the Law for his wife and her firstborn Son, Jesus. Joseph and Mary “brought Him 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’” (Luke 2:22-24).
Remarkable! Absolutely astounding when you realize what this means! Because of the Passover when the firstborn sons were spared by the blood of the lamb, all such sons belong to the Lord. A firstborn son could be bought back by bringing an offering of a lamb, or a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. Joseph and Mary have the offering necessary to redeem their son. This is quite fitting, for even now Jesus is already redeeming them. They bring, not a lamb, but rather, the offering of the poor—two turtledoves. Still, into the temple Joseph and Mary carry the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And the Word of the Lord has come to pass that is written, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1b).
Husbands and wives… families… singles… widows… a baby… newlyweds… new parents. Why have they come here and what do they seek?
There’s one more! A baby! Perhaps the easiest to overlook, but certainly the most deserving of our attention. Jesus is here. He is the firstborn Son of Mary and the Son of the Most High. The Savior is here and He is holy to the Lord.
Why has He come? He has not come for Himself, but rather for us. For Himself He needs no purification, no redemption. The Incarnation of the Son of God is for sins of the world. His way of the cross, which will lead to His sin-atoning death, is for the life of the world. For “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
What does He seek? The little Lord Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us,” seeks to be present with His Church in the temple, and He was and is and ever shall be. The Christ seeks to be in the midst of His people who “come into His Presence with singing” ... who “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100), and He was and is and ever shall be.
Here the Lord God Almighty has His little congregation ... His family, a widow, a man, young and old, husband and wife, mother and father, carpenter and housewife. Here, what began as an assembly of the Old Testament Christian Church becomes the first gathering of the New Testament Church. “Behold, the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple” (Malachi 3:1).
What happens as a result? A widow remains in the holy place and tells the Good News of Jesus to all who are looking for the Redeemer. A man may commend himself into the hands of God, ready to depart in peace. A father and mother now marvel at this Word that tells them of the Savior of the world and of their Savior. Husband and wife may now go home, living their lives and carrying out their vocations, submitting to one another, raising their offspring in the fear and love of the Lord, living in the presence of Jesus.
Husbands and wives… families… singles… widows… a baby… newlyweds… new parents. Why are you here? What do you seek? Have you come looking for someone to rid your life of all of your problems? Sorry, you won’t find that here. We preach Christ and Him crucified. We preach a Savior who bids His disciples to take up their own cross and follow Him. He is the “Sign” who will be opposed. Even the one with whose blood He shares His humanity, His mother Mary, will suffer the piercing of her own soul. Christ has not promised you your best life now. That will only come in eternity, with the resurrection of your body unto life everlasting. He has come for a much greater objective—to rid you of the eternal consequences of sin, to reconcile you with God.
Why are you here? What do you seek? Are you looking for affirmation from a doddering old grandfather god who simply winks at your transgressions and accepts you just as you are? Sorry, you won’t find that here. This is a place for real sinners who are waiting for real redemption. We speak of a just God who is so serious about sin that He gave His only Son into death to redeem us from it.
Why are you here? What do you seek? Have you come to get your ears tickled with entertaining stories or to gain a set of practical tips for a purpose-driven life? Sorry, you won’t hear that, either. We preach Christ who is appointed for the fall and rising of many. We preach the full counsel of God’s Word. The Law that shows us our sins and the Gospel that shows us our salvation. The Law that condemns and the Gospel that brings forgiveness and life.
Why are you here? What do you seek? Have you come to fulfill the Law? That’s already been done for you with the passive and active obedience of Christ! From the time of His conception, Jesus lived a perfect life in obedience to the Law on your behalf. On the cross, He took upon Himself the penalty for your sins, bearing the full measure of God’s wrath for your sins, suffering the wages of sin—death, and crediting you with His righteousness.
Why are you here? What do you seek? Do you seek the consolation of God’s people? Do you wish to depart in peace? Have you come to worship and pray as you wait for your redemption? Have you come to marvel at what is said of your Savior? Have you come to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you come to see and hear and feel and taste and touch your salvation? Have you come to sing your canticle of praise? Have you come to be in the presence of the Lord?
Maybe, but probably not, certainly not entirely. But when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter why you have come here this morning or what you were seeking when you came, but rather the manner and condition in which you leave here this morning: repentant and forgiven. You may have come here for all of the wrong reasons, and with the very poorest of motives. But God’s Word does not return to Him void. It still accomplishes that for which He sends it forth.
And in the Word, the Lord is present here for your salvation! Indeed, the Lord God is present in this holy place and sanctifies you with His Word of forgiveness of sins, of peace, of hope that doesn’t disappoint, and of life in His Name. In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, He fills you with the Holy Spirit and you receive adoption as sons of God. You are clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with Christ’s robe of righteousness. As you confess your sins and iniquities, the Lord gives you His absolution through His called and ordained servant. In Holy Communion, the Bread from Heaven feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.
As you leave this holy place, you may be assured that you have seen your salvation. You are indeed blessed! Through faith in Jesus ... the Incarnate Son of God ... the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world ... you may depart in peace according to God’s Word. For truly, you are forgiven of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.