Sometimes, when those closest to us suffer so much loss and endure such pain that we are left without words, we turn to the texts of others, those who have said it more and better. And we trust that even those we can’t articulate what we would ask on our loved ones’ behalf, the Holy Spirit can and does for us. With that, one of my favorite and well-read sermons from my brother-in-law, Rev. Jason Braaten.
Christmastime is a bittersweet time. It is a time of great joy. But it can also be a time of great sadness. Joy because of the giving and receiving of gifts and the bringing into focus what’s most important—family and friends, God’s great love for His people that He sent His only Son to save us. Sadness because of what and who we have lost over the years. Loved ones who are no longer here to share in the joy that once was. Christmas is time when we remember not only what we have, but also a time when we remember what we have lost.
We have all known loss in one form or another. For some it is more poignant than for others. But still, we all know what it’s like to lose someone close to us. For some it’s their mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. For others it’s their spouses. And yet for others it’s their children.
Some of our losses come because of death. Others come because of breakups and fights and irreconcilable differences. Others still come because of distance and change, because of growing up and growing apart.
But all these losses bring with them a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of brokenness, of being incomplete.
But all these losses bring with them a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of brokenness, of being incomplete. They leave a void. They create silence. They create holes in our lives, places that once were filled with them, but are now empty. Places at our tables now empty. Places in our beds now cold. Bedrooms now vacant, and houses once filled with raucous laughter and play now silent. No one to fill our hugs or to warm our hearts. And we think to ourselves: What will we do now that they are gone? How will we go on? Who will we talk to? Who will fill that void, that silence, that emptiness? What would, what even could replace what was lost? What consolation, what relief is there for the emptiness and sorrow that loss brings?
Simeon and Anna knew this well. Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was promised by the Holy Spirit, by the Lord’s Word, that he would not see death until He saw the Lord’s Christ. He waited year in and year out, experiencing loss all around him, waiting for the Christ to come, waiting to see fulfilled the Lord’s promise, waiting to see the consolation of Israel from that loss. Anna, too, advanced in years knew loss. She was a widow. Spending days and nights now in service at the temples. She was awaiting Israel’s redemption, waiting for the Redeemer to come and save them from their losses, waiting for the time when the Lord would come and bring them all back together again. They both had holes from those they loved and had lost over the years. What would fill their emptiness? What restores their joy, brings consolation, fills their arms and their hearts?
Jesus does. God in human flesh. Anna’s joy returns because of Jesus. She has seen Israel’s redemption in the flesh. Thus, She praises the Lord and tells everyone of what she has seen. What she sees is Jesus, the baby born of Mary. The same goes for Simeon. He picks Him up. He holds Him in his arms. He glorifies God in song for the fulfillment of His Word. He may now depart in peace. For he has seen death because He has seen the Lord’s Christ. He has seen death and conquered it because the Christ must suffer and die for sin but be raised again on the third day. He has seen the consolation of Israel. He has held it in his own arms.
There is nothing left to fear because the Christ has come.
There is nothing left to fear because the Christ has come and everything is fulfilled. All things are now whole, nothing is left broken. The Lord’s Christ is come. And He comes to make all things new. He comes to take away sin and sorrow. He comes to bring joy and relief. He comes to fill those who are empty and to find those that are lost. He comes to bring them back together, under one roof, around one table, in His Father’s house. For in His Father’s house are many rooms. And He has gone to prepare a place for you and those you have lost.
Christ comes in the flesh of man to die man’s death. He suffers loss, He empties Himself on the cross to fill those who are empty, who have suffered loss because of sin and death. It is finished. All things are new. The empty are filled. The lost are found. The dead live in Him. And sinners are now saints.
So come and hold him in your arms. Embrace Him who comes in His Body and Blood in your mouths. Have a seat at the Lord’s table, in His House where no seat is left empty. Join the angels and the archangels. Join Simeon and Anna. Join those whom you have lost, who have left a void in your lives, and be filled with the consolation of Israel, the consolation of everyone who has loved and lost. You have just seen the worst that death can do: to you and to those whom you love. For Christ died but is risen. And so shall you.
You have just seen the worst that death can do: to you and to those whom you love. For Christ died but is risen. And so shall you.
So depart in peace. Leave today in joy. The Lord’s Word is fulfilled. He has not left alone. He has made you a people, His people, members of His household, members of His family. He has gathered you and all those who have run the race before you under one roof, in His house, to sit at His table, where there is no more tears, no more sadness, no more emptiness. But only joy and peace forevermore. This is His promise to you. And like Simeon, we say, Let it be according to Your Word. Amen.