Christmas 1 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 26, 27, 2020
Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40

Sermons online: 

Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            The presents have been opened, the wrapping paper is bagged up for the Rumpke man, there is a sense relief that the busyness of Christmas is over, a sense of disappointment that it is 363 days until next Christmas and maybe a bit of dread for the coming credit card bill. 

            In the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold, who is expecting a large cash bonus, opens his Christmas gift from his company to learn that he has been enrolled in the jelly of the month club.  His brother-in-law Eddie helpfully remarks, “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”

            There is another Christmas gift that keeps on giving the whole year that is infinitely better than Jelly of the Month.  It is, of course, Jesus Himself.  Jesus keeps on giving to you from the moment of your baptism for your whole lifetime, however long that is. 

            We have funeral planning forms on file for a number of church members, but I have not filled one out.  I really don’t need to, because I am not going to die.

As hard as it is to accept sometimes, life is, for all of us, a journey from the womb to the tomb.  1 Peter 1:24-25 (ESV) 24 … “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” … [1] 

            Psalm 90:10 (ESV) 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.[2]

            Death is the enemy, the result of the fall into sin in the Garden.  Death came with the Fall and now life is a journey to the grave.  For those who do not know the peace of Christ, death hangs over them like a giant weight held up by a tiny string that could break at any moment.  It could come at any time.  And then, they believe, it is all over.  Curtains.  

Indeed the curtain closes in death, but it is not the end, it is just an intermission before the next act.  Jesus prepares you for that day no matter your age.  Jesus gets you ready to die.  That is what Simeon says in our Gospel reading today.  Luke 2:27-32 (ESV) 27 And [Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”[3] 

Seeing baby Jesus prepares Simeon to die.  Now you are letting your servant depart in peace.  Being baptized prepares you to die.  Hearing the Good News about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection prepares you to be declared worthy at the judgment based on what Jesus has done for you.  Receiving the Lord’s Supper readies you to be received into the arms of the Lord on the day of your death and to live forever with Jesus.  Lord, now let your servant go in peace.

It is not a happy thought to think that life is a long process of dying, but there is encouragement in being ready.  Being ready to die means that you are ready to live.

            When I regularly visit a nursing home I start to recognize some of the residents and I find it sad to see them just sitting and watching television every week.  I think to myself that they are just watching TV waiting to die.  But then I realize that is what we all are doing.  We are all doing whatever it is we are doing, waiting to die. 

            It is not a happy thought to think that life is a long process of dying, but there is encouragement in being ready.  Being ready to die means that you are ready to live. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.[4] 

            Watching the television news it seems the networks make their money trying every day to scare you that something else is going to kill you.  COVID has been a field day for the media to come up with never ending new things to fear.  As a follower of Jesus you are free to live without fear of death because you know that death is not the end, it is only the transition to a new eternal life with Christ. 

Now life is God’s gift to you so you don’t seek death; you don’t tempt death.  You take care of God’s gift to you of your body and life.  You take precautions to stay safe, but you are also under no delusion about mortality.  You know that death is coming and while it is still the enemy, the enemy will not be victorious.  The Church, the people of God in Christ Jesus, move through the years, the decades, and centuries without fear because they live with the confidence that they are ready to die.

            Romans 8:31-39 (ESV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [5]

            Not being afraid of death empowers you to live.  It lifts the weight of the dread from you and frees you to use your time to do what you are given to do while you have time to do it.  You do not have to waste time chasing after futile promises of eternal youth, but rather use your days to love and serve the people you are given to love and serve in your daily life.  For married couples who are able, have children, and raise them in the fear of the Lord.  Grandparents, if you are able, help your children raise their children.  Care for the people that you encounter each day.  Care for the parts of creation under your control.  Fight back against the dirt and rot and decay in your body and life, in your property, in the community, and in the world.  Take care of what you have been given to care for. 

Live charitably.  Give generously.  Hold what God has given you in an open hand and not in a closed fist.  Knowing there is more to existence than just this life frees you to live life in the joy of Jesus regardless of your circumstances.

            Being ready to die has emboldened the Church for 2,000 years to continue even through times of persecution as the forces of darkness have tried to smother the light of Christ.  Matthew 5:10 (ESV) 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[6]

            The devil wants to extinguish the light of Christ in you and in the world.  He attacks the Church and he attacks Christians.  He wants you to live selfishly for yourself and always in fear.  In order to counter the darkness you stay ready to die so you are ready to live.  You gather together each week to receive God’s Word and His Sacrament and stay ready to die so you can focus on living life for others. 

            You have the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.  You are an adopted child of God in Christ Jesus. Galatians 4:6-7 (ESV) 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. [7]  

You know you are ready to die and that makes you ready to live.  For me to live is Jesus, To die is gain for me.  So when my savior pleases, I meet death willingly.  Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.  Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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