A Sweet Swap of Salvation!
First Sunday after Christmas Trinity Lutheran Church
27 December 2015 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Wow! Loads of great stuff in today’s text. If I preached everything in the text today, the sermon would go way too long. You’d hate that and you’d quit coming to church. So, I’ll preach very quickly on the purification of Mary and Simeon’s preaching of the Baby Jesus.
According to chapter 12 of the Old Testament book of Leviticus a mother was ceremonially unclean for forty days following the birth of a boy – eighty days for a girl. Why? Well, it’s really quite simple. It was a declaration of the law that preached the inherited nature of our sin. It is a clear and present reminder that Adam’s original sin gets passed down to all his descendants. King David put it this way in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Or as St. Paul puts it in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, there was the purification of the mother. Purification meant there was the need for a sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, usually a lamb or goat, or if the parents were poor, two pigeons or turtledoves.
Of what did blessed Mary need to be purified? Her firstborn Son Jesus is sinless. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born in her chaste virginity. Jesus is God’s most holy Son and therefore He is born without the inherited stain of Adam’s original sin. Remember stanza 2 of the hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come”?
Not by human flesh and blood
By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh
Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh. (LSB #332)
So I ask again. Of what then does Mary need to be purified? Well, here we get a hint of what we call the “blessed exchange” or “sweet swap” when it comes to God’s giving of salvation to sinners that Jesus came to do.
What you are witnessing from the text today is that already now at the tender age of forty days Jesus begins to take your sin upon Himself. In exchange He gives you His righteousness, purity, holiness and perfection. He takes your bad. He gives you His good. Jesus is made to be sin for you. He gets treated like a sinner by God in His Baptism and on the cross, cursed and condemned in your place. In exchange, baptized into His Good Friday death, you become the righteous children of God. The forty day old Jesus gets treated as the sinner and His mother as if she had given birth to a sinner. That’s the sweet swap of salvation! Isn’t that wonderful!
Now, listen to the words of the old man Simeon as he holds Jesus in his arms:
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.
Let your servant depart in peace. Now he can die. This is Simeon’s “deliver us from evil” prayer. His vigil of watching for the Messiah is no over. He hold the Messiah in his hands. This little One is his Savior. “My eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon can get in death’s grill – look death squarely in the eye – knowing that his eyes now see God’s salvation of the world – knowing that in his arms he holds the devil-crushing, death-destroying God in the flesh!
Mary and Joseph marvel at Simeon’s preaching. He gives such high and glorious names to this beggar Baby: God’s salvation, the Light to the Gentiles, the Glory of Israel. Really? With this pathetic, poor and helpless little Boy? Aren’t saviors supposed to be bigger, stronger and mightier than we are? Our lights are neon and laser. Our glory is glitter and gold. But this poor Child of Mary is so tiny, so dependent, impoverished and weak. Our enemies loom large next to Baby Jesus: sin, cancer, diseases of all sorts, violence, terrorism, anarchy, injustice, guilt, evil, the Law, God’s eternal wrath, death and hell.
However, let me remind you that it was Gideon’s army of 300 that stood against the mighty Midianites. It was puny little David’s slingshot against gargantuan Goliath’s armor and sword. It is God’s divine service versus the devil, the world and our sinful selves.
Is this little Child strong enough to defeat your enemies? Yes! Let me remind you that the little Boy is God whose power is made perfect in weakness. Who hides His riches under poverty – His strength under weakness – His glory under the cross. He is the God, the one and only, who deals with your sin by becoming your sin. He deals with your death by dying your death. He is the “sign that is opposed.” He is the rejected Redeemer. The Man of Sorrows. The Suffering Servant. The cross marks the life of Baby Jesus. The cross marks all of you who follow Him as His hangers-on.
Learn this today: when Jesus appears most weak and most vulnerable there He is most Savior. Most Light. Most Glory. In the manger. In Simeon’s arms. On the cross. In the water of your baptism. In the word of the gospel preached. In the Lord’s Supper. GOD FOR YOU! FOR YOUR SALVATION.
You are sinful but Jesus is a greater Savior from sin. You are weak but Jesus is strong. You are darkness but Jesus is Light. You are shame but He is Glory. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done in your life. Whether you are good or bad, rich or poor, religious or irreligious, young, old, married, single or widowed. Because here – cradled in the empty arms of faith, this Child Jesus is your salvation, your Light, your Glory.
In the Name of Jesus.