1st Sunday after Christmas – C LSB #376
Text – Luke 2:40
And the child grew & became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.
The rather lengthy Gospel lesson for today closes by shifting from a scene of drama in the temple at Jerusalem to mundane life in the village of Nazareth. In the original Greek language, it’s only one sentence that makes up the sermon text. Then, in the verses following it, the scene shifts back again to more drama as His parents find Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem.
There’s drama in the temple. There’s a sentence that appears totally insignificant. Then, there’s more drama in the temple. As I was reading the Gospel lesson in order to choose the sermon text for this morning, I wondered, “Why is that sentence in the Bible? What purpose does it serve? Amidst all the historic events of Jesus’ life & death, what does this mean?”
“And the child grew & became strong, filled with wisdom, & the favor of God was upon Him.”
For a God, born as a human being in order to suffer, die & then rise from the dead, to save the entire world from sin, that sentence seems completely pointless & insignificant. I believe this is the connection. How many of you have wondered if the struggles you’ve gone through in living are significant in any way?
Have you asked yourself, “Is there any purpose to my life? What good has all my hard work accomplished?” What about your education, & job, or career? Was all of that just so you could work for a living & then die, hardly to be remembered ever again? What if you end up spending the last five years of life in a nursing home? Would that have any value?
What about this congregation? How significant are we? What are we doing here that has any lasting effect? We keep paying the bills & teaching the students & repairing the building & singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve, over & over again, year after year. Yet fewer & fewer people are hanging around. More & more of them are drifting, if not running away. Is this congregation irrelevant to history? Is there any lasting point to any of all the stuff that we do?
I’m guessing that not a one of you could name my grandparents. At most, only a few of you know the names of my parents, & probably half of you cannot correctly spell my last name. Is there even the least bit of significance to what I do here as the pastor of this congregation? Will anyone remember me ten years after I’m gone? Is my life completely irrelevant?
King Solomon, supposedly the wisest man to ever live, famously wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “…vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 ESV) Solomon was wealthy & powerful enough to have done it all, & claims that he did, yet he concluded that all of it is vanity. PAUSE
“And the child grew & became strong, filled with wisdom, & the favor of God was upon Him.” The same could be said for millions & millions of other human beings born to this earth. The vast majority of us never become famous, & as far as the world is concerned our lives have no significance or worth. And that is why the message of Luke 2:40 is so important for us.
It’s important because none of our lives are making the world go round. None of our tweets are detailed across the nation in the daily news. We have not written symphonies like Johann Sebastian Bach. We can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. You & I have not invented the iPhone, or designed the Empire State Building.
The 1st thirty years of Jesus’ life also appeared insignificant & irrelevant to anyone except His immediate family, & the small community in which He lived. Other than the two events we noted earlier at the temple of Jerusalem, nothing more is mentioned of His first 30 years until His baptism at the Jordan River. In fact, one of the greatest scandals of Jesus’ entire ministry is that He did not come to save the rich, the powerful & the well-healed upper classes of society. Instead, Jesus came to save the lost, the poor, the broken. Messiah came to save women & men like Anna & Simeon. Neither were significant people in world history. After the verses in chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel, neither one is mentioned again in the Bible.
Anna & Simeon have played the role ordained for them by God & then moved off the stage, back into obscurity. However, they are not irrelevant, & they are not gone. And you know where they are! They’re with angels & archangels, & with all the company of heaven. If you end up in eternal paradise, your life here could not possibly have been insignificant.
It may look that way, & often feels that way, because sin has totally destroyed our ability to see the things of God with our physical eyes. Countering that Job prophesied, “I will see [God] for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:27 NLT) In heaven, it will be obvious to the naked eye that no one there is insignificant.
To take our place, in every way, not just on the cross, but in every aspect of life, Jesus had to live a life that appeared insignificant & irrelevant. He had to be born & to grow up just as we do. Since we fail to live every aspect of human life perfectly as we ought, Jesus had to live through every aspect of human life in order to perfect all of it as a gift to us.
You see, we sin every day even in the insignificant & seemingly irrelevant aspects of life. We can’t even grow up properly, or perfectly, as Yahweh intended when He created the human race. So He sent His Son, in person, to do it over. God the Father sent God the Son to grow up perfectly so there is zero reason for us to fear anything at which we have failed.
Do you remember the struggles of your own childhood? Was it a struggle watching your children grow up? Is it a struggle now watching your grandchildren grow up? Jesus has taken your place, & He has taken their place, even in those things: “And the child grew & became strong, filled with wisdom, & the favor of God was upon Him.” The favor of God was upon Jesus so the favor of God can now be upon you, & upon your children, & upon your grandchildren. The favor of God was upon Jesus so the favor of God can now be upon every single child that comes through the doors of our childcare & our school, every day of the year.
As those children grow & develop & mature, they already face a lot of struggles, & more are sure to come their way. Operating our childcare & school programs is a ton of work. It is filled with headaches, & costs a bunch of money. However, we can do it with optimism & hope because Jesus “grew & became strong, filled with wisdom, & the favor of God was upon Him.”
The Christ Child blazed the way for you to give you hope & a future no matter how unimportant you feel your life is. That’s news worth passing on to children & grandchildren, to infants & toddlers & preschoolers. It is news worth passing on to men & women in nursing homes, & to anyone, anywhere, who feels irrelevant, or insignificant, or left behind.
It may seem odd that between 2 well-known events in the life of Jesus, there is this one sentence between them that sort of stands alone, like an afterthought: “Oh, yeah, the child grew & became strong, filled with wisdom, & the favor of God was upon Him.”
It is the news we need to hear as members in congregations the world seems to have passed by. Today’s Gospel reading is important for us because God used two elderly people who were completely insignificant in the affairs of Caesar or King Herod. Through them God gave information about, & glorified, the Christ child before He performed a single miracle.
It seems fitting now that, in all the resources I looked at to study for this sermon, there was hardly a word written about the 40th verse of Luke 2. Apparently the theological scholars of the world couldn’t find anything significant to write about, & yet God’s message was right in front of their eyes. It is the news we need to hear as people whose values & beliefs the world seems to have passed by. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you & not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future.” (29:11 NIV) At the very least you & I can rest assured that our future will include eternity in heaven, & that will be no small thing. Amen.
Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for His bed: Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child. He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God & Lord of all, & His shelter was a stable, & His cradle was a stall; with the poor & mean & lowly lived on earth our Savior holy. For He is our childhood’s pattern, day by day like us He grew; He was little, weak & helpless, tears & smiles like us He knew; & He feels for all our sadness, & He shares in all our gladness. And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love; for that child so dear & gentle is our Lord in heaven above; & He leads His children on to the place where He is gone. Amen. LSB 376:1-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet