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Worship Theme: Our Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation
Sermon Theme: The Truly Fulfilling Gift
Christmas is already 48 hours in the past. Are you still celebrating? Or is the tree already down and the decorations put away? I hope not. But for as early as the retail world is to put up Christmas displays already in September; it seems that they are just as quick to move past Christmas.
I’m going to be nosy for a second. I want to know about the gifts you received this year. Were they good? Were they what you wanted? Better than what you wanted? Do you still remember what you got? Here’s the most important question…did those gifts fulfill you? I mean, did they fill you with joy and peace and happiness? Maybe you need to give some thought as to what kind of gift would really fulfill you? A fat check? A new phone? A videogame system? An all-inclusive vacation? I really hope that the gifts you got did bring you joy and happiness. But here’s the reality with Christmas gifts. Sometimes, as nice as a gift might be, it’s not really what you want or need. Other times, the gift is great, but it wears out quickly or breaks easily. Some gifts get forgotten about after some time. Some don’t fit. Even the best and greatest like lots of money or a great trip, they don’t last forever.
Well, now that I’ve ruined Christmas and your gifts for you, let me remind you of what Christmas is truly all about, lest we too quickly forget as we move on with life. Christmas is not really about a bunch of gifts piled under a tree, but the gift that laid in a manger. It’s not about longing for a gift that is only temporary, but finding the gift that is eternal. Christmas is not about being left empty, but being filled. So today as we look at the gospel account from Luke chapter two, we will see that Jesus was and is the truly fulfilling gift.
This account took place 40 days after the baby Jesus was born. In line with the worship laws that God gave to Israel through the prophet Moses, a mother had to wait 40 days after giving birth to a son before she could go to the temple and then offer up a sacrifice for her purification. That’s what Mary and Joseph were doing as faithful and obedient people of God. At that same time, they also observed another law of the Lord – “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” This law was put in place to commemorate God’s grace when he spared the lives of the people of Israel by rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. Consecrating the firstborn meant dedicating that child to special service to the Lord. At no time before had this meant as much as with this child, Jesus. His whole life as the very son of God would be of special service to the Lord as Savior of all people.
It's really easy to just overlook these couple of verses and get into the rest of the account with Simeon and Anna, but these verses set the stage for the rest of Jesus’ life. Jesus came to be the gift that would fulfill all of the demands of God’s law perfectly. From day one he did. He fulfilled all of the worship requirements. He obeyed all of the commandments. He did it all without one slip-up.
Just as importantly, he did it for you, in your place. For every ungrateful moment that you have, Jesus had thankful contentment. For your every weakness and doubt, Jesus fully entrusted himself to the Lord. For your every lustful look, Jesus kept his eyes on every good and perfect thing. For your prideful ego, Jesus humbly went about his work to serve you. For your lack of love for others, Jesus embraced people every time. He worshiped, he obeyed, he loved, he gave to family, to friends, to strangers, to the helpless, to the prideful, to the believer, and to the enemy, selflessly and perfectly. Every single law of God that you too often scoff at, Jesus said, “Yes, Father.” Jesus is the truly fulfilling gift.
Jesus was fulfilling in another way too. Let’s look at Simeon and Anna. The believer Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel, the coming of the promised Savior who would bring comfort to God’s people. That’s why he was in the temple. What did he say when the Holy Spirit led him to Jesus who was there that day as he held the baby in his arms? “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised…my eyes have seen your salvation.” The old prophetess Anna longed for that same Savior to come and redeem Israel, setting them free from their sins. Jesus came. He fulfilled the promises of God to save people from their sins, to save you.
If you could make a list of gifts that you want from God, what would be on it? Maybe you have a list like that going already. Here’s the thing. God doesn’t promise that he’s going to make you rich. God doesn’t promise that he is going to make life easy for you and take away all of your problems. God doesn’t promise that he will make everyone like you and be nice to you. God doesn’t promise that he will heal every sickness and disease that afflicts you. God doesn’t promise that he will stop wars and crime and fighting. But what he does promise is to give you the gift of a Savior to rescue you from your sin and the punishment of death so that you can have eternal life with God. Far greater than hoping to have a pleasant life in this sinful world, God promises you a perfect life in the glories of heaven. That promise he has fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the truly fulfilling gift as he fulfills God’s sure and certain promise to save you from sin and death. His life of perfectly fulfilling God’s law from his first moments in the manger he took to the cross where he gave that life to pay for yours. Because of Jesus, you are saved. You are set free from your sins. You are right with God. That is a truly fulfilling gift.
One of the best parts of this account is the reaction that Simeon and Anna had to seeing the Savior with their own eyes. If you’ve ever held a baby, it’s a pretty awe-inspiring moment. It’s new life, it’s marveling at the tininess, yet complex baby, it’s the wonderment of a child. My kids got to hold their newborn cousin recently and the joy on their faces was awesome to see. Imagine holding the Savior in your arms. Holding God in flesh! Talk about contemplating life. Talk about having joy. That’s what Simeon experienced. Listen again to his reaction as he praised God. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
God, through his Holy Spirit, promised Simeon that he would not die before he saw the promised Savior. Now that that promise had been fulfilled, Simeon was filled with peace. He had total peace of mind and soul. Why? Because he saw God’s salvation of the world in his hands.
Think about peace of mind. Peace of mind is a mental state of calmness or tranquility. It’s a freedom from worry and anxiety. Car dealerships might offer you a peace of mind warranty, that if anything happens to your car during that warranty, it’s all going to be fixed free of charge. H&R Block offers a peace of mind extended service plan for their tax preparation so that if you get audited, don’t worry, H&R will handle it. Peace of mind. You don’t want to worry. You don’t want to stress.
Looking at the world, the unrest, the political rhetoric, the constant bickering, the disease, the uncertain economy; it can sure make a person stressed out and has for many of you, especially this last year. Looking inside yourself and seeing the failures in your relationship with God and with others sure can make a person anxious too. But look under the tree, not the Christmas tree, but the tree that became the cross, and see the Savior who sets you free from the worries of this world and from the fear of your sin. Hold Jesus in the arms of your faith, look in the eyes that lived for you, and be filled with the peace that surpasses all understanding. With Jesus, there is no fear of the things of this world or fear of death. Jesus has conquered death. He rules over all things. He promises you eternal life. Believe this. Rejoice in this. Praise and thank God for this. Speak about this gift to all around you. Jesus is the gift that is truly fulfilling for your life.
I can imagine that the temple that day was filled with lots of people including other parents who were coming to consecrate their child to the Lord and fulfill the laws of the Lord, just like Mary and Joseph did with baby Jesus. However, most people probably didn’t even give Jesus a second glance, if even a first. To them, he was just another baby in the crowd. But God opened the eyes of Simeon and Anna to recognize the tremendous gift that was in their midst that day.
A lot of people in our world celebrated Christmas, but have already moved on or are feeling unfulfilled even after opening some pretty great Christmas presents. Why? Because so many of them missed seeing the real gift of Christmas that is truly fulfilling. May God open your eyes today to see with hearts of faith the gift of Jesus. May your hearts be filled with joy that you are forgiven and a dearly loved child of God. Jesus is the truly fulfilling gift and that gift is for you. Amen.
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