The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
People love to talk about “when the truth comes out.” When the truth finally comes out, all errors and lies and wicked deceits will finally be put to rest. When the truth comes out the poor victim will finally be vindicated. When the truth comes out all will be made right once again. Sadly, I don’t think it’s true. I don’t think the “noble cry for truth” is sincere. Just pay attention to who is usually crying the loudest for truth: The politicians, the lawyers, the “perpetual victims.” They want the truth; they just want their version of the truth. In reality, these are the last folks who want the “real truth” to be brought to light. After all, truth—real, objective truth—has a way of smoking out and laying bare the real intentions of the hearts and minds of men. Nobody wants that! Be honest: Would you really want to know what’s in a person’s heart? You may think you do, but ignorance is bliss. Even worse, would you want the truth of what’s in your heart to be laid bare for all to see and know? We may talk a good game and boast that we don’t care if people see what’s in our heart. We have nothing to hide! We may boldly cry for the truth to come out and be made known, but the truth of the matter is that we often prefer the truth to remain with our skeletons: hidden safely away in our closets.
The reason I lead with this is because Simeon makes a point of prophesying specifically to the Truth of Jesus Christ. “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and the rising of the many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Think about what he’s saying here. Israel—Jesus’ own people—will either fall or rise because of Him. No middle ground. No grey area. Rise or fall. Either they will believe or they will reject. And as we well-know, many do reject Jesus as the Christ. They hear the Truth. They even see the Truth, and yet they refuse to hear. They refuse to see. All those years of crying out for the Messiah: “You wait until the Messiah gets here! You wait until the Truth comes out!” And what do they do when the Truth (as in the Way, the Truth, and the Light) comes to them? They crucify Him. His Truth didn’t match with the truth they expected, wanted, or demanded. The Truth of Christ smoked out and laid bare their sinful desires; their sinful hearts.
Now, it’s easy to recognize how Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled in those people of Israel. What about now though? I guess it’s not so difficult to recognize the truth of Simeon’s prophecy in today’s world, is it? Christ is still so very divisive. Because of Jesus either we rise in the new life of faith or we fall in the death of unbelief. That’s it. No middle ground. The cross of Christ is still a sign that is opposed—vehemently in some cases—the thoughts of the heart smoked out and revealed in this cruciform light. And I know it’s so very easy to recognize this Truth when it comes to loud-and-proud opposition. There are many people who proudly make their opposition to Christ and His Church public knowledge. They want everyone to know. But…that’s not the issue here.
What about us? That’s the issue. Those who stand in proud and public opposition to Christ are at least honest about their opposition to and hatred of Christ. I respect that. I don’t condone it. It doesn’t end well. But I respect it. Their dark hearts match their dark words. There’s a certain sense of integrity, as wicked as it is. What about those who profess their love for Christ? Can Christians stand in opposition to Christ? Sadly, yes. Remember: The Jews loved God, and yet they clearly stood in opposition to Christ—God in the flesh, didn’t they? Are we any different? Are we any better?
Consider the simple fact that to sin is to oppose God and His righteousness. That’s the bare-bones truth. To be a sinner is to be in opposition to God. To sin is to oppose God. Cut-and-dry. Now, we could go into a whole long litany of the many and various ways that we sinfully stand in opposition to Christ. For brevity’s sake, though, I’ll direct you to God’s holy Ten Commandments. Examine yourself in the light of this Truth. No excuses. No self-justifications or pleas to “technicalities” and “special circumstances.” One simple example: Christ was here Christmas Day (a Tuesday!), along with the whole company of heaven, divinely serving His Word, His Body and His Blood for the forgiveness of sin; for the peace that surpasses all human understanding. The Truth came out. Did you? If not, what was more important than Jesus? Repent or rebel, that’s the bare-bones Truth. It’s true of the Third Commandment. It’s true of all the Commandments. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
But…there’s more to that verse, isn’t there? All have sinned and fallen short, but all are redeemed in the blood of Christ. All have been justified and declared “innocent” in His all-redeeming death and resurrection. My dearly beloved; my fellow sinners: Here is the Truth—the cold, hard, blessed Christ-centered Truth. Here [the crucifix] is the Truth of your sin; the Truth of God’s righteous wrath against your sin. Here is the very sign of the opposition—the enmity—that exists between God and the children of Adam, who are all sinful by nature. Here—at the same time—is the sign and proof of God’s love for you. Here is the Truth of God’s incomprehensible love for you. Here is God’s undeserved grace and mercy for you, on full display for all the world to behold.
Look here [the font/altar]. Here is Immanuel. Here is Christ with us. Here are God’s gifts of grace, mercy, and peace for you, freely held out to you and on full display for all the world to behold and hold fast to. Yes—sadly—many oppose Christ in these, His means of grace…even good God-fearing Christians who still cling to the lie of works-righteousness…even good God-fearing Lutherans with better things to do. Repent or rebel: the Truth is what it is.
This is precisely why I point you to the Truth of God’s grace and mercy. I point you to the Truth of God’s peace and love. The truth of our rebellious and self-centered, self-serving sin is what it is. We can try to justify it and excuse it all we want, but our excuses don’t change the Truth. But all that sin has already been paid for by Christ; paid in full with His flesh and blood. Your impossible debt has been paid in full by Him; the wage of your sin paid in full with His death. His victory over sin, death, and the devil has been credited to you. His victory is your victory, by virtue of your baptism into Him and His all-redeeming death and resurrection. This Gospel Truth truly changes a man. This Gospel Truth produces a joy and peace that truly does surpass all understanding.
My dearly beloved children of God: Here is your Savior. Here He is, right where He tells you to seek Him; right where He promises to be. Here is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…for you. May this Christocentric Truth take root in your heart and spring up to bear the fruits that only this Tree of Life can produce. May this Christ-centered Truth guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him. May this revealed Truth of God’s great love for you give you peace and joy, and may this Christ-centered, cross-centered peace, joy, and love be witnessed in all that you say, think, and do, to the glory and praise of God alone.
In Christ’s name…AMEN
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