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December 30, 2018

Sermon Luke 2:22 . . .“Bible places:  Jesus’ presentation at the temple”

“Bible places:  Jesus’ presentation at the temple”

Luke 2:22

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

If you could go back to any moment in history, which would you choose, and why?

There are any number of possibilities!  Think, for example, of when men built the great pyramids of Egypt, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  The tallest is made of more than two million blocks of limestone, and each block weighs more than five thousand pounds!  And we wonder--how did they do it?  Did they use a system of pulleys or was it simply brute force?  And did they once cap them with gold?  We’ll probably never know for sure.

Or imagine what it would be like to witness the first moon landing, back in July of 1969!  Now it’s one thing to watch it in black-and-white, but imagine what it would have been like to have been there, in full living color, to watch Neil Armstrong as he took his first steps on the moon!

Or maybe you’d like to travel back in time to December of 1903, to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  It’s where the Wright brothers first managed to get their plane off the ground, for all of fifty-nine seconds.  It was one of the greatest achievements of its time.

Or maybe you’d like to stand in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776, as our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence.  As Thomas Jefferson once wrote:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Or think of what it would be like to hear Abraham Lincoln speak the words of his Gettysburg Address, or to watch Leonardo da Vinci as he painted the Mona Lisa, or to see an original Shakespearean play.  “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

Any of them were truly some of the most important historical events of all time!

And when it comes to the Bible, there are quite a lot of things we would also like to see, like when God first created the heavens and the earth, or when He made Adam and Eve.  Or think of when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, or when Moses parted the Red Sea.  Or think of what it would be like to see Jesus born in Bethlehem, crucified on Mt. Calvary, or risen from the dead on Easter Day.  

But there’s one more we might like to see, and that’s found in our Bible reading for today, from the book of Luke chapter 2.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1090 as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “Jesus Presented at the Temple,” Luke chapter 2, verse 22:  “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they 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.’”

We’ll stop there for just a moment.

To give you a little better idea of what’s going on, just a few verses before, Luke told us of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  And just as soon as He was born, angels appeared to shepherds, their song filling the night sky.  And when those shepherds found the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, as it says in verse 17, they “made known the saying that had been told them concerning this Child.”

Which takes us now to verse 22, where it says:  “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.”

Notice that.  It said, “their purification.”  Who’s they?

It’s Mary and Joseph.

You see, the Old Testament had very strict laws about what it meant to be “clean” and “unclean.”  If you had a strange spot or swelling in your skin, you were considered unclean.  If you touched a dead body or even blood, you were unclean.  If your house had mold in it, it was unclean.

And childbirth made a woman unclean too.  In fact, for forty days, she couldn’t touch anything holy or even step foot inside a holy place.

Why forty?  For one, it gave her time to recover.  She could spend that first month and ten days, safe at home, with her child.  And the child too, could be safe at home with his mother.

Also, that number forty is a pretty important number.  Just as soon as Noah built his ark, it rained for forty days and forty nights.  Moses spent the first forty years of his life, living in Egypt, in the house of Pharoah.  Then he spent the next forty years living in Midian, and forty more leading the people of Israel to their Promised Land.  Jonah told the people of Nineveh they had forty days to repent.  And for forty days, Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness.

And when those forty days were over, as it says in the book of Leviticus, “She shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her.  Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood.”

And when those forty days were up, as it says in verse 22, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

And what offering did they bring?  Not a lamb, as the law of Moses required.  Instead, they brought two turtledoves--get this--because it was all they could afford.

And what happened as they brought their offering to the Lord?  It’s not something anyone could have ever expected.  First, an old man named Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms, and said, (in verse 29):  “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.”

And then came a woman, a prophetess, named Anna.  As it says in verse 38:  “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

So what does all this mean for us?  Let’s take this one thing--Jesus was no law-breaker, as those who later opposed Him would say.  He was born under the Law, He lived His whole life in obedience to the Law, and He kept the Law to the very end.

Is it any surprise?  It shouldn’t be, for Jesus Himself said in the book of Matthew:  “I did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.”  And Paul wrote to the Galatians:  “When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive our adoption as sons.”

So why does it matter that Jesus was born under the Law?  It matters because, even though He was God Almighty, creator of the heavens and the earth, He became just like us, one of us, to bear our sin, and to be our Savior.

As Martin Luther once put it:  “He whom the worlds could not enwrap, now lies yonder in Mary’s lap.”

Ever heard of a smartphone zombie?  Simply put, it’s a pedestrian who walks and texts at the very same time, without paying any attention whatsoever to his surroundings.  

As you can imagine, whenever pedestrians text, they can’t help but trip over curbs, bump into other walkers, and even step out in front of cars.  While most anyone else can see nearly 100% of the world around him, they say that a smartphone zombie can only see 5%.  

So what to do?  Three cities in Germany have already imbedded traffic lights into the ground, so preoccupied pedestrians can see them more easily.  South Korea has installed warning signs at each intersection.  And the city of Honolulu threatens to fine you just for looking at your smartphone while you’re crossing the street.

Then there’s the city of Salzburg, Austria where they’ve taken it one step further.  They’ve installed airbags around street-side lamp posts that serve a double purpose--for one, they can protect people from absentmindedly smacking into a lamp post.  For another, they carry a message.  Roughly translated, it reads:  “Will the next car also be so well padded?”

And that’s the challenge for each of us as we begin this new year.  There are a lot of things that will distract our attention and cause us to wander.  Without our God before us, behind us, and all around us, there’s no telling where we might go.

So as we begin this new year, as the writer to the Hebrews once said, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who was born as an infant and laid in a manger, who was adored by shepherds and wise men, who was presented to God in the temple and held in Anna and Simeon’s arms, who endured the cross and scorned its shame, who rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God.

 

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home; for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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