2 February 2014
Text: Luke 2:22-40 (1 Sam 1:21-28, Heb 2:14-18)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Most of our great literature deals with heroes and villains. In fact, most of the great stories in the world follow the theme of redemption. The basic story goes like this: the world (or the planet or the land or the city or the village) is messed up. Evil is having its way with good. But there is a promise of a future savior. Time goes by. And then the hero comes, defeats the villain, restores things the way they should be, redeems the bad and turns it to good. This redeemer is also a savior, who risks (or even loses) his own life to save those whom he loves.
Art imitates life, dear friends. In most of the great novels and movies of our time there is a redemption theme. We see it in the 1912 science fiction story John Carter (whose hero saves the people, and has a resurrection experience, and whose initials are J.C.). And in the story of Superman, who comes to earth to fight against evil, to be a savior, and yet who is a real man with two natures (a superheroic nature and an ordinary, Clark Kent nature). And in such diverse films as The Matrix, in which an ancient prophesy comes true in the form of a man who redeems the world from captivity to evil, and in the yet to be released The Lego Movie, in which an ordinary guy manages to be the prophesied hero and savior, who defeats evil and saves the world. Indeed, we know this narrative well.
The great Christian authors Tolkien and Lewis believed that the human condition plagued by sin, death, and the devil, and the promise of a Savior, are themes that are so imbedded into our human nature, that even pagan stories and myths reflect this universal human cry to be rescued and redeemed. The world is crying out for a Savior. And, dear friends, we know who He is. He is here with us today. It is our commission and privilege to confess this Savior and make Him known to a dark world that is desperate for a glimmer of hope, a dying world that yearns to be made alive, a world of evil run amok that so wants the earth to be a Paradise Restored.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is this Savior and Redeemer. He came into our world from afar, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, a man who appears to the eye like any other man, and yet a Man who is the incarnate Word of God. He came to die so that we might live, and He came to rise again so that we might be victorious over death and the grave. He took our sins to the cross that we might be forgiven. He suffered His body to be crucified and His blood to be shed so that we might partake in the mystical communion of His Eucharist.
Through Him, all people are offered the gift of redemption, of salvation, even as He has come to destroy Satan and to rid the universe of every vestige of evil.
As was prophesied in the Old Testament, Jesus came into our world as a child, born of a virgin, “holy to the Lord” as being the first to open His mother’s womb. And He, though the King of the universe, came to an impoverished mother and step-father, so poor that they could not afford the customary lamb to sacrifice as a substitutionary offering for their firstborn son. And so they offered the “turtledoves or pigeons” as the Law permitted. But look at the beauty of this offering, dear friends. How often we skip over such parts of Scripture. For there was no need to offer the lamb to fulfill the Law, for the Lamb was there – the “Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world.” While the doves died as a substitute for Him, the Lamb was to die as the substitute for all creation! While the sacrifices of the Old Testament had to die in the place of sinners as a preview of the coming Messiah, Jesus is that Messiah who dies in the place of sinners once and for all. And in opening Mary’s womb, He opened Mary’s path to heaven, to redemption, and opens the tombs of all believers.
Jesus fulfills, completes, and brings to a fitting conclusion every prophecy and hint from the Old Testament. He is the new and greater Samuel, offered to the Lord in the temple as a boy, destined for a priesthood that would save the people from their sins.
Jesus fulfills not only the prophets and the prophecies, He also fulfills the Law, keeping it even as He was killed by those who broke the law and disregarded the prophets.
For this, dear friends, is what we commemorate today: the presentation of our Lord and the purification of Mary. The Lord has been presented at the temple, the Lord, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the Temple not built with stone but made incarnate with flesh, the Redeemer and Savior whose Word remakes the world and whose body and blood are given as a mystical gift traversing space and time to deliver forgiveness, life, and salvation unto us! For just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was purified by the first One who emerged alive from her womb, all of mankind is purified by this One who emerged alive from the tomb. Just as Blessed Mary sings to Him who is her Savior, so do we sing praise to the God of Israel, He who lets us, His servants, depart in peace, according to His Word, for He is the Word.
And, dear friends, our eyes have seen His salvation, for He is our salvation, manifesting His presence among all peoples, a light for revelation to all nations, and the glory of His people Israel, the Church, His beloved bride, those to whom He has come to heroically save and redeem.
As the author of Hebrews spells out clearly for us, this is not just a redemption story, but it is the redemption narrative, the true story of the salvation of the world by a hero, the destruction of evil by His sacrificial atonement, the heroic and epic historic account of the triumph of good over evil, of love over hate, and of the restoration of the goodness of Paradise.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Jesus has been presented. Mary has been purified. Mankind has been saved. The world has been redeemed. This is our story, our true, historic narrative. Jesus is the realization of the hopes and dreams and aspirations of every man who ever put pen to paper, of every person who has hoped for a better world, of every soul tormented by sin and guilt, and of every created being of every species and kind that groans under the old order crying out for redemption.
Jesus is our Savior! Jesus is our Redeemer! Amen.
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