In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You belong to the Lord. For parents of ancient Israel’s firstborn sons, 40 days after their births, this was a solemn reminder. The baby boys were brought to the Temple and redeemed. God said they belonged to Him. But instead of demanding their service, He chose the tribe of Levi to serve as the priests and servers in the Temple. So to recognize and celebrate this substitute, parents would bring their firstborn sons to be presented to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice on their behalf.
You belong to the Lord. That can be a reminder of God’s Law. Because of that, you dare not drag His Name through the mud by filthy words or actions, sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.
But you can’t stop. You are unable to perfectly honor Him at every moment. You fail to recognize that you are His, and end up blaming Him for all the bad things in your life. You turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the Consolation He sends in your life, and find yourself completely forgetting that you belong to the Lord.
Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary took the Christ Child to the Temple when He was 40 days old. Mary underwent the purification rites that followed childbirth, so that she could again participate in the Temple liturgies. And they brought the two turtledoves as the sacrifice for Jesus’ presentation.
And then there’s Saint Simeon. Out of the crowds in the Temple courts that day, Simeon comes forward and scoops up Baby Jesus in his arms. Simeon recognizes the mysterious truth that this Child does not belong to the Lord – this Child IS the Lord!
That precious truth changes everything for Simeon. You see, this saintly old man had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before He had seen life. He would behold the Savior before He passed into Paradise to dwell with the Lord. As Mary and Joseph walk through the Temple courts, God reveals to Simeon that this is the One! This Baby is the Savior – the Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel!
That is when Simeon breaks into song, praising God and declaring that he can now die a happy man, since he has seen the Savior and witnessed God keeping His great promise. He is saying, “You can take me now, God. I’ve seen it all! I knew You would keep Your promise, and now it is complete! I’m ready, Lord – come and get me, for I belong to the Lord!”
You belong to the Lord. St. Simeon recognizes that this is wonderful, comforting Gospel! Try as he might, the devil cannot snatch you out of the Father’s hand. The secular world tries to sway you into the charms and desires of a Christ-less Christmas, but our dear, loving God is preserving you with His Gifts.
You belong to the Lord. At Baptism, the Savior forgave, rescued and gave you salvation! As He cleansed you, body and soul, He claimed you as His own. God presented you to Himself, and gathered you into His family and kingdom. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” You were filled with sin as a baby inside your mother. You belonged to sin and death. But God changed all that. He brought you into His presence with His Word, as it was proclaimed to your expecting mother. Then, more fully and clearly, He publicly displayed that you belong to the Lord as He baptized you.
You belong to the Lord. No matter what hardships you face, no matter what sufferings you endure, no matter how tough life seems, you have the sweet comfort that you are not left alone; Christ the Savior is born, and you are His! He does not abandon you to the darkness of this world, but is the “Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of [God’s] people, Israel.”
You belong to the Lord. Anna came across the Holy Family, and was filled with joy and witnessing. This senior-citizen-evangelist told anyone who would listen about the Christ Child she had seen.
You too are a witness. No, you are not running around the Temple. Even so, our gracious God feeds you His Holy Word and Sacrament week after week, and places you in various stations in life. He uses you to speak His Gospel. No sermons needed. He gives you to be His walking invitations. Welcome your friends and family to come worship with you. Encourage them to come and bask in the Light that lightens us Gentiles. Are you scared you won’t know what to say? Then just say you would love for them to come and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ here at Saint John’s. Let them know you will sit with them and they can follow along in your hymnal. Just a simple: “Welcome!”
Do you do this all the time, as you should? No. Do you shy away from such invitations? If you are like most, then no. And you fail the Bethlehem Baby. However, I have good news of great joy which is for all people – you belong to the Lord. He does not keep you bound to the sins of refraining from inviting others. He frees you from the guilt of being too shy or too exclusive. You belong to Him and He showers you with His forgiving love!
Dear friends in Christ, rejoice this morning! Our Lord has not left you stuck in your sin. He was presented for you. He has redeemed you. He is risen for you. And you belong to the Lord! Amen.