Sunday, December 31st, 2023

All Dressed and Adorned

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Dear friends, in Christ, on this is the 7th day of Christmas, Merry Christmas. The Lord be with you.  The text for this morning are basically all the texts this morning because they all have a similar ring, a similar tone, but especially to begin with Psalm 98 as part of our Introit, which we actually sang, you sang, you chanted. “The Lord has made known his salvation. He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” These are the words of the song, David of all people, talking about how the Lord has made known his salvation, and we thought it was just this Christmas that we got made known salvation, but not really. So as we begin things today I want to ask something because I’m very conscious of no children’s message today, but I want to ask kids as well as adults, because kids, I want to tell you something. You’re going to ask this question to someone for the rest of your life. I was just thinking the other day. I have asked this question to someone every year. “What did you get for Christmas?” and I remember especially as a kid, having a whole list. Some of my friends had a list a lot longer than me so I was careful who I asked, but anyway, “What did you get for Christmas?” and we can think of all kinds of things, and all of us have all kinds of things we can speak about and talk about that you finally got, or that you have no need of, or why does he keep giving me this when I don’t need it. I remember as a kid that when I was very young being quite disappointed in my grandparents on my dad’s side, who were quite proper, they were a little more in the English side of the family, and they would always buy an outfit and what I remember about it, there’s so much I would forget about the outfit, except that my mother always made a point because she knew that that was the last thing I was looking for on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day under the tree was a bunch of clothes, and she would always make a point, oh that is so wonderful Douglas, you don’t realize how wonderful a gift that is. She would talk me into that it was a really good gift so I would agree because I figured she knew what she was talking about. It’s not until a lot later in life that growing up, I realized you know really those were pretty nice gifts so little Dougie could look pretty good in the community and his parents could make him look good without too much effort. So what did you get for Christmas? There are all kinds of things but Isaiah, the Psalms, David all of these talk about garments, clothing, yeah, garments of salvation. Listen again to now Isaiah the Old Testament “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord.” Isaiah writes some 700 years or so before Jesus was born. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”  “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nation shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Splendor and all the rest. So, see, Isaiah also likes garments as the gift from God, but garments that are different from the garments we are used to talking about at Christmas, but garments that have been put on to us by God himself as he has incorporated us into his name, incorporating us into his name, into his kingdom, into his life, into his salvation, and he has clothed us, he has not left us naked, like 2 sinners in a Garden long ago. He’s given us much more than simply a fig leaf, but he’s given us clothing, and how important it is to have these kinds of clothes., Isaiah writes. Isaiah reminds us these are real garments for you. So we think about garments a lot in our life, you and I know that garments and clothing is very important. It means that we can go out without shame covering up all these things that we don’t want others to know about or to see in our lives. Well we would know that as sins and some other blemishes that are in our little personalities some things that we’re ashamed about, that happened to us that if others would know this happened or if this is my family or if this is my whatever it is would be quite, quite embarrassing. So, they prevent a lot of that and it’s important for our identity: how are we looking right now? I remember when I was younger and starting out in in the ministry I remember a very popular book, and I read it because it was important book, and it was it was a best seller, you probably know about it, Dressing for Success. So, when you’re in the business community, when you’re in the working community, when you’re in the academic community, whatever community you’re in, when you’re going to school when you’re going to class, it’s important how you look and what you wear. For women, particularly, I remember one thing that sticks with me, is that for a woman, it is a good thing to wear dark rimmed glasses, because it exerts authority. I remember one of the members of our congregation showing up a few weeks later with a new pair of glasses because I knew she had heard that sermon when I talked about all this kind of stuff. Amazing, but clothing, garments, it’s all so important. They cover, they shield. Don’t go out without a coat, they protect. Uniforms, they project authority.  All of these things are important and we take it for granted because it’s all about our garments. So here I am as a little boy getting garments for Christmas going “No I don’t need that, I need a pair of six guns, instead, bigger than me.” I got them the next Christmas. My life changed, but garments here and garments there. Now the other day I was in the gymnasium, just can’t even believe I say such a thing, I’m in the gym. It’s the place where all the machines are. They call it a gym. But I saw a shirt. This is the other thing about garments now, and today, oh you can put whatever you want on your garment, you know, your company, your slogan, what you believe in, what you don’t believe in, what you’re tired of hearing from other people, what do they want you to believe in, and all the rest. So you got all kinds of slogans, and I saw this young woman, and I realized oh she was quite with child, and she was exercising there, had a shirt on, and on the back of the shirt it simply said “Devour weakness.” Yeah, now that’s a good slogan in the gym because in the gym you’re trying to, well the best way you, can devour weakness, you can’t devour age, but maybe we can try the weakness bit, but I was going whoa, she something, really projecting herself out there and I thought she’s going to have a little baby, oh, you wait until weakness comes now you know. Your strength, where is it when you need it? But I thought what an interesting phrase, devour weakness, because it really does describe a lot in our society. You want to get ahead, you want to do anything, you’ve got to get rid of the weakness you got to be confident, you got to be strong. That’s an image that we live with day after day and we each put ourselves out there with it. Yeah he knows what he’s talking about I do that as a pastor. Yeah, he knows what he’s talking about. Just don’t ask any more questions. I’ve answered all I can answer. But today on this first Sunday after Christmas, when we come to the gospel of Luke, it is amazing, it is amazing what flies in the face of this phrase, devour weakness. Rather it is telling us about our newborn Savior, you know the one named Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, no room in the inn, and all the rest, well it continues now, when he’s 40 days old. Luke finds it very important to let us know that this Jesus, now early in life as soon as it’s possible according to custom and practice is in the temple. The temple has been the place of God’s people, the temple has been the place where forgiveness is proclaimed from the sacrifices that Yahweh has offered for the people of Israel. The temple is where life with God is to be found, and where do we find our newborn little 40-day year old baby. He’s just a baby, but in the temple with his parents, his mother for purification, but then he was there, which means that he was at least 40 days old. And there in the temple, you listen to how Luke describes it because who does he find in the temple? People of strength, people of character, people of repute? No, he finds a man whose name was Simeon. Now we don’t know how old Simeon was but we can tell it’s very consistent that he was toward the end of his upper years. I don’t know if he was going to the gym or not probably not, but Simeon was there, and Simeon who followed the scriptures, and followed the words of the Lord, and blurry, may be getting a little more clearer, Simeon clearly states something that we still sing in the church today, what we know “ Now let us depart…” the Nunc Dimittis, “Lord now let us depart in your peace according to your word.” He came up, Simeon, righteous and devout waiting for consolation and he said because it had been revealed to him, Luke says, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, Messiah and he took advantage, and so he came in the spirit into the temple, Simeon, and when the parents brought in the child, Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up “Lord now you are letting your servant depart in peace” literally that would say you are letting your servants be released  in peace, sins released, this life released for the sake of the beautiful life in Christ. He saw this little one “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the revelation to the gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.” That’s the church. Israel, those living in the covenant of this Lord’s promises of forgiveness and gracious love by his name. And his father and mother marveled, we would too. He likes our kid, but more than that they marveled at what was said about him, and Simeon blessed them and then he said to Mary his mother, now you figure how is this going to go in your circles when someone greets you if you have a newborn baby in your family and says what was written about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, to the mother, he says this: “Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is opposed and a sword will pierce through your own soul also so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Ooh a sword which pierces, which cuts through evil and good, a sword which reveals it all and exposes it all, this child. Yeah, and they marveled at what was said about him, but that’s what he said to the mother. Do you think that’s strength? This child what do you think this child has been born into weakness because he’s going to be an obstacle, and he’s going to be reviled, and he’s going to set people against people. That’s not my sign of how we begin a movement, begin a gracious big, big thing going for the Lord. So they marveled and then there was the prophetess Anna, who the same way that hour, recognized this child, this 40 day year old child, as someone to be adored and exalted and even worshipped. So there you have it. This child, what did they know about this child? because we know nothing of Jesus now, they knew nothing of Jesus except they brought this baby in and this is the one that’s it by God’s revelation to us. This child, well how’s that all going to turn out Simeon? How’s it going to look Anna? Well they would have no more idea than how your last day on earth would look to you today. You don’t know what that day is going to look like to you. I don’t know. We don’t know, but they knew that about this child. You see this is how the prophets of the Lord have worked through the ages. It’s kind of like when you go to the optometrist’ office, you know how they start, especially at my age, it starts out real blurry from the last prescription but then she puts that thing up, you know or he, and starts flipping, you know. Is this better, this better? Can you read those letters and you’re going “No.” Flip is this better? Yeah that’s better, but how about this? This better, this better, this better. It gets clearer and clearer so by the time you are out of that office in an hour you are like a new person seeing clearly what it is that you’re supposed to be seeing in everyday life including what you’re reading with your eyes that can’t seem to focus on their own but those corrective lenses, you see a clear picture of what it is written on the page for you. The prophets of the Lord are the same way. There are always these little views through the lenses that are more blurred but it’s the same letters, it’s the same words, it’s the same person, it’s the same Lord, and through the ages it becomes a little more clear, a little more clear, and here we are when Jesus is born and something has gotten very clear to Simeon and to Anna and that is that this child is the one Messiah. How that’s going to look?Well give Anna enough credit or Simeon enough credit for being a theologian. He knew that the Lord’s anointed one would be in a lot of opposition and a lot of conflict. He knew the weakness would be how Yahweh would redeem and put garments of salvation and righteousness onto his people. Amazing how this develops, and so Luke begins his gospel of Jesus Christ and as you follow Luke’s gospel and all the gospels, it would become very clear what is going to happen to Jesus, for not only them, for not only the nation Israel, the people of the Old Testament, I should say, in this case, but for you and for me. It will become very clear that this one will be given in weakness to the cross and by his weakness, not by his strength, but by his weakness, he will be given into death where his death will swallow all death. In other words, he will be given into the ultimate weakness of life that you and I wonder and worry about, death itself. This is how he is given for you and this is how he is going to clothe you, and has clothed you, and you continually are clothed in this righteousness and this salvation which is brighter than a diadem. And guess who’s going to notice. The people that know you and me the most, there’s a reason you put a robe on me, to be up in front of you, as the Lords appointed, or Lords ordained pastor, because people in my family know me too well. You don’t want that person up in front of you, and pastor Richert same way. Our kids know us too well. But you’re going to be known. It’s not about you. The world is going to know you because you have a Lord who loves and accepts even you, and a Lord who is the one who bears forth the light of this righteousness, his righteousness, given to you by the death of his Son, and the resurrection and the union into his name. You’ve been baptized into his death, just in the same way into his resurrection. The world knows you not because, “Look at him he’s a great Christian, isn’t he.” The world will know you because what kind of a Lord is this who is merciful to even someone like him, or her, even to a child, even to someone that’s got severe mental disabilities. What kind of Lord brings people like this into the light, into the shining dia,dem of his garments and his salvation? You know you think once in a while we’ve sung these little songs; I remember really misunderstanding this song, I’m going to give it to that, my misunderstanding but I think there are some who understand it differently, “This little gospel light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” and you know we’re supposed to get ready and leave and we’re going to let our light shine, which to many people means I’m going to be a better person. We don’t get three steps out the door from Sunday school or church, or whatever, and we’re still the same old person. People who know us, know that that. This Lord has given you something else, not because of you, not because of me, but because of his righteousness. This child who as Simeon says, is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel for a sign that is opposed. Pastor Paul says for whoever eats his body and blood, given for you, and shed for you on his cross, and resurrected again for you as a living body, and living blood, but given in the sacrifice, is now your body and your blood, and part of you, and you are alive and you are well, and you are well clothed, and you are well endowed with whatever it is you need, because he’s put everything of his onto you, for the forgiveness of sins, for life and salvation. So is it any wonder then that if the serving and the giving of the body and blood of the Lord in the ancient liturgies and the long-time energy of liturgies that the church often sings with communion we’ve done it here, sings the song of Simeon: Lord now let us thou thy servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation. See it’s your light your reflection even on someone like me. And here’s this other little note in Luke: and when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord with this little 40 day year old baby in all of his weakness and all of that, they returned into Galilee to their own town Nazareth. And we just read that go, Yep, I know the story, I know the answers to the questions. Where did Jesus grow up, children, boys, and girls, what is the answer? Where did Jesus grow up? In Nazareth, not Bethlehem. He’s born in Bethlehem but he’s raised in Nazareth where did he begin his ministry in Galilee, and all the rest. Well anyway they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth and the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him. So, I was asking Karen today like it’s Nathaniel that asks oh his fellow disciple, can any good come out of Nazareth? I mean if you’re going to start something, if you want to make it big, if you’re going to present a vision out there, with how this thing’s going to go with the church, what’s going to get the most pizzazz, and the most bang for the buck, and the most whoa, attention and wowisms, you’re not going to go to Nazareth because it’s out of the temple city, it’s away from those who are in the know and those who are in the authority and power of those days. You’re not going to go to Nazareth to begin a movement. You’re not going to go to Nazareth to start forming a coalition of all these groups of people that we’re going to bring together. We hear that so often in our society, our culture, all across the world, don’t we. Well, I’m going to tell you if you want to be a successful whatever, you’re not going to go to Nazareth. You got to get to the place where you can network and connect with people who are in in the know and in the authority and in the power of whatever it is we live in in our society. But this Lord doesn’t do it that way, and who does he find in Nazareth? People like you and people like me, people who just aren’t ready to be out there in every way. I don’t know about my confidence, I don’t know about any of that, but who does the Lord come to? You and me. His church now because of these garments placed on them. It’s the place of his salvation. His church come to his name and his alter to receive that which clothes them like a royal priesthood of garments and diadems and all the rest, the forgiveness of sins for you, this body this blood. And the rest of your family is looking at your parents, going even from my parents. Some of the best lessons of life are when your parents are here too. Yes, given and shed for you. This is the Lord. This is his splendor. This is his Christmas gift to you. What did you get for Christmas? We know what we got for Christmas and it’s not under the tree. It’s right here. The Lord’s name for you. Amen. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.