New Years’ Eve
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 31, 2012
“God is for us…in the manger, on the cross, on the altar”
In the Name of Jesus.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:
It is the end of another year. 2012. How quickly it has passed!
Wisdom would lead us to ask, as the year ends—how did 2012 go? Not merely, “How did it go in my eyes”. Did I make money, did I prosper, although, that would be a good thing to take stock of, too. How was I blessed this year?
But also, “How did I live? How was my life in the sight of God?” To answer that question, we need to ask God to give us His Holy Spirit so that we see our lives correctly. Then we look into the past year on one hand and into the law of God, the ten commandments, on the other. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” we could say to God. “Please show me, Father in heaven, how you see the way that I lived during 2012. Show me what I need forgiveness for and what you want to change; what wrongs I’ve done that I should make amends with my neighbor for and not carry with me through another year.”
To ask God for this is a humbling and frightening thing. No wonder so many people get drunk tonight! Most of us have plenty to regret. On top of that, the older we are, the more clear it becomes that we are no better than our forefathers. We are getting old just like them. Just like them, our lives are unlikely to make the history books. And even if they did, what then? Famous people and successful people die just the same as people whom time causes to be forgotten.
Wisdom would have us not let a day go by where we do not take stock of our thoughts, words, and deeds before the day is out, so that we may not carry one day’s sin and anger into the next, but bring them all to the heavenly Father and leave them with Him.
Very few of us are that wise, however. We think little of the time we waste when we are young, and when we start to get old enough to realize that life is short and we are not guaranteed tomorrow—by then it is too late to get back what we have thrown away. The lessons that I should have learned when I was a teenager and which I have still not learned—I must still learn them. Who knows what good I might have done if I had learned them younger—who knows what blessings that will last for eternity I threw away for the sake of ease on earth that passed so quickly?
When we go home tonight, and tomorrow as the new year begins, it would be a wise thing for us to ask God to help us examine the life we have led in the past, and to guide us into those things that please Him in the year to come.
But all of that is a waste of energy unless we can answer with a yes the question that Paul raises in Romans chapter 8. He does not phrase it as a question, but it is a question we must be able to answer nonetheless. What Paul says is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer to that question is “No one.” That is a beautiful answer to be able to give. “No one can be against me.”
But that answer, and the further blessings that Paul lays out at the end of Romans 8, belong only to those who do not say, “If God is for me,” but “God is for me!”
If God is for us…
- 1. Is God for us?
- 2. What hope and blessing do we carry into the New Year if God is for us?
Is God for us?
We just celebrated Christmas. The baby who was born was called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” His name is “Jesus.” Jesus means “the Lord Saves.” God became man because God is for us. God is on our side. That is why Paul says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things?”
But if it is so certain that God is for us, why do we still hear threats of His wrath? Why is there a hell?
God has shown that He is for us in the incarnation of Jesus. But most people don’t believe that the baby Jesus is God for them. They look at Christ crucified and don’t see God for them.
They look at their own suffering and don’t believe that God is for them.
That is what Isaiah is talking about in His gloomy words in the Old Testament reading (Is. 30:8-17). God was for the people of Israel. But they didn’t believe it. They didn’t believe that the way that the Lord promised to save them would work.
So they did what they thought had to be done. If the Lord didn’t seem to help them, they hedged their bets and started worshipping other gods too. The Lord didn’t seem to be helping them, so they made an alliance with Egypt and counted on the nation that once held them as slaves to defend them against enemies that seemed poise to destroy them.
Then when the prophets came and said in the name of the Lord, “This is not going to work. Trust in the Lord only. Find rest in Him only. Forget about Egypt. The Lord is much mightier than Egypt. He is all you need.” The people of Israel said, “We don’t want to hear that. Stop preaching the Word of the Holy One of Israel. Stop confronting us with Him. Tell us smooth things.”
The problem wasn’t that they sinned. God would rebuke them for their sins, and then forgive them when they repented. It was that they didn’t want to quit. They didn’t want to give up their idols. They were afraid not to make an alliance with Egypt. They didn’t think that the Lord would be good to them. They didn’t think that He was for them.
So they said, “Stop telling us what the Lord says.”
The end result was the same thing it always is. God is for you. Because He is for you, He does not let our rebellion against Him go unpunished.
If you have sin that you want to hang on to, God is for you in Christ, but you refuse Him being for you.
Whatever your sin is, let it go. Whatever you have going on that gives you an uncertain conscience, quit it until you have a sure conscience.
God is for you in Christ. If it is a choice between Christ and something else…
If God is for us, what then?
Who can be against us? No one.
Would God hold anything back from you if He didn’t spare His Son?
But I have idols I keep returning to.
Repent and believe that God did not spare His Son because He wants you as His own. The fact that you recognize it and wish to do so no longer is repentance. Jesus is for you no matter what, but only sinners come to Him.
Who will accuse you? God has justified you.
Who will condemn you? Christ intercedes for you at the right hand of God.
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
We can be separated from earthly peace
From our lives and all the things we have in this world
We cannot be separated from the love of Christ. No one can snatch us from His hand.
That is the confidence in which we enter the new year. When we look at the law and examine ourselves, we will find sin from which we cannot free ourselves.
Hope is in Jesus only. In Him God is for us.
God is for you in the manger–not against You.
He is for you on the cross.
He is for you in His body and blood on the altar.
He is for you. He is certain. So certain that you know every week when you come back here what He will say: Your sins are forgiven. My body and blood for you.
His name is the same name that was put on you in Baptism, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The name that swallows your sins. The God who gave His Son, who became man for you and redeemed You, the God Who calls you by the Gospel, enlightens You with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the true faith.
You cannot sin in such a way that your sins are more powerful than Christ’s love. When He pledges His love to you in Word and Sacrament, does He lie to you? Does He lie to you about the forgiveness of Your sins, about His gracious heart toward You? Does He lie when He says that He is for you?
Then whatever evil things the devil may say about you (and they may all be true)–do not also believe him when he slanders Jesus and says that Jesus will allow you to be snatched from His hand. “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” He says He loves You; let Him be true and every man a liar. If He loves You and is not lying, then He cannot let anything take His love from you, whether suffering, or your sin, or the devil and the principalities and powers that hijack God’s world but soon will be destroyed. Nothing is strong enough to take Jesus out of the manger or off the cross or away from you in the Gospel and Sacraments where He is for you. I baptize You, He said. I forgive you all your sins, He said a few minutes ago. This is my body, for you, my blood, for you, He has pledged all the years of your life, and will still this year.
No one is strong enough to make Him take back those words.
In Him is our justification and the renewal of our hearts. In Him we can look at the past year and not flinch, because we see our sins and the law through His wounded body.
Look at the law and the year past, and then look at Jesus in which you see God for you.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria.