Text: Luke 2:22-40
Date: Christmas I + The Holy Innocents + 12/28/14
Twenty-one times today; twenty-one times today you will sing, say or hear the word “glory” or “glorious” or “glorified.” Go ahead! Count them!
In the opening hymn: “Angels sang about His birth. Wise Men sought and found Him; Heaven’s star shone brightly forth Glory all around Him…. Hail the King of glory!” (LSB 374). In the confession of sins we pray, “Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name.” Of course we sing it three times in the Gloria In Excelsis, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. Lord God, heavenly king…we praise You for Your glory…. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.” In the Old Testament reading we hear, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory” (Is 62:2). In the psalm we pray, “Glorious and majestic are [the Lord’s] deeds…. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” (Ps 111). The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke: “Glory to You, O Lord.” The words of Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation…for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). The Sermon,“See the Glory.” The Hymn of the Day, “Let all together praise our God Before His glorious throne…. He undertakes a great exchange, Puts on our human frame, And in return gives us His realm, His glory, and His name” (LSB 389). We confess in the creed Jesus “will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.” “The Holy Spirit….is worshiped and glorified.” The Offertory hymn, “Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee…. Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory” (LSB 384). The Proper Preface, “You have given us a new revelation of Your glory.” The Sanctus, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might: Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.” The Prayer of Thanksgiving, “To You alone, O Father, be all glory, honor, and worship.” And the hymn paraphrase of the Nunc Dimittis,“This is the Savior of the world, The Gentiles’ promised light, God’s glory dwelling in our midst, The joy of Israel” (LSB 937).
Eleven times already, twenty-one times in total today we sing, say and hear of God’s glory. The only thing we do not do is see it! …Or do we…“See the Glory”?
For only four days now we have been surrounded by glory. People light up their houses both on the outside and the inside with all manner of bright, glorious lights breaking the thick darkness of these longest days (or we should say nights) of the year in the northern hemisphere. We ended our Christmas Eve service in the glorious glow of candles. And there is nothing like the songs of “angels from the realms of glory” singing loudly and joyfully their eternal songs, Gloria in Excelsis and Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus; Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Yet the Christmas lights last but a moment and, unlike the prophet Isaiah in the ancient temple or the shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, or a couple of years later the Wise Men from the East following a star, we…we do not see the glory.
Why not? What do we see instead? We become more and more like the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge. The cold in each of us “freeze our features, nip at our noses, make our eyes red and thin lips blue” with distrust and cynicism at the wreck people have made…the wreck we have made not only of Christmas but of almost everything else in our world, in our lives. Was this not Herod’s heart as he this day mercilessly had the holy innocents, all the baby boys in Bethlehem two years old and under, murdered in his jealous and wrathful search to wipe out the adversary called the newborn “King of the Jews”?
Scrooge, Herod. And is that not what we all are like to some extent apart from God, because of our sin spending our days trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. When we’re young we seem to be so full of hope and optimism. It is not long, however, for us to learn such things become more and more beyond our reach. How do people say it today? “Ten years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope, and Johnny Cash. Now we have no jobs, no hope, and no cash!” Pessimistic you say? Well how’s this for pessimism—in the Bible St. Paul describes our dreaded death-walk in this world as being “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).
Indeed we may become so jaded that we may question whether or how even God could so love this mess. It certainly was a mess when God sent forth His beloved Son, born of woman, born under the law. We sing that the streets were quite dark in that little town of Bethlehem, just like our sinful hearts. Yet that night it was in those very dark streets that “shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years…met in thee tonight.” How so? Because of the birth of God’s Son, because God came to our rescue in our darkness, while we were still sinners.
The last we hear of Jesus before His silent years of childhood is today when Mary and Joseph brought Him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord according to the Word and Law of the Lord. We all could have simply missed it, the holy family silently entering the temple, offering the sacrifice and heading back home again. We could have missed it, as it seems the majority of folks in the world today miss the real Christmas. We could have missed it except for St. Luke’s record of the ruckus made that day by two people, Simeon of Jerusalem and the prophetess Anna. It was Simeon who was told by God that he would see the Lord’s Christ. Suddenly, there He was! And just as suddenly Simeon took the child up in his arms and blessed God. He did not say, “Oh, what a cutie!” We don’t think He could have said He looked just like His father! No, he said nothing so mundane, so every day, so worldly. He blessed God saying by faith that in this little child you can see “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” This is the true glory of Israel. For the glory will be in His holy, Law abiding life; what Israel was always called to be but never could be; what you also are called to be but never can be – apart from God’s intervention and help. And the saving glory of His holy life will be His holy, atoning death. Because of the forgiveness of sins and salvation won there we sing the mysterious sentence, not “in the crèche of Christ,” but “In the cross of Christ I glory!”
Do we not see this glory? Certainly not with our physical eyes growing dimmer with the passing of the years. And we certainly do look forward to seeing this glory as we confess with Job, “in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:26-27). In this hope we sing, “And then from death awaken me, that these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My savior and my fount of grace” (LSB 708). But He is your savior and fount of grace now! The eyes of your heart were opened when baptismal water washed you. By faith like Simeon’s you see the glory in that water and under the forms of bread and wine set apart by the Lord’s Word. “Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face; Here would I touch and handle things unseen” (LSB 631). You can see God’s glory as your family dwells together in faith and love. And you can see the glory “When in our music God is glorified And adoration leaves no room for pride, It is as though the whole creation cried: Alleluia!” (LSB 796).
Glory to God in the highest! See the glory, like Simeon and Anna, like all the faithful prophets of old, by faith as even the Holy Innocents of that day and of today see and behold the Savior. See the glory in the Word-made-flesh who dwelt among us with glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.