New Year’s Eve
+ IN NOMINE IESU +
There are two customary ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The world throws a party. It’s out with the old and in with the new. Auld Lang Syne with Guy Lombardo, Champagne toast at midnight, and dance the night away! Some churches prefer a more melancholy approach, with so-called “watch night” services that focus on the second coming of Jesus. Instead of mirth making there is sober reality: Jesus is coming soon and you better have your house in order lest He comes and finds you not watching for His coming!
But we’re Lutheran. We don’t follow the warmth of the heard, and so we do our own thing. There’s a party going on and the Father’s invited us. Nevertheless, we do well always to keep watch for the coming of the Savior because one phase of the party will end and another will begin.
Jesus says be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. A wedding is not usually a sober event. There is solemnity for the ceremony, but afterward it’s time to party. The master returns from the wedding with a smile on his face. He’s had a good time, maybe a little too much of a good time. The servants are watching for him, wondering what’s next. Jesus says the master will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
Masters never serve servants. A master who wants to serve servants doesn’t deserve to be a master. However, this Master is different. He comes among us as One Who serves. No matter what time His arrival from the wedding, He serves. Jesus says if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
A master who had perhaps too good of a time at a wedding returns home to serve his servants. Maybe he brought some extra Champagne and caviar! Now that would be worth watching for his coming! Jesus will bring something better than bubbly wine and salty fish eggs. When Jesus returns from the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that shall have no end, He will come to bring us with Him to this marriage feast.
But aren’t we already feasting now in the Church Militant? Absolutely! Every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We feast on the preaching of the Gospel. We feast on Christ’s true Body and Blood. Yet these remain foretastes, appetizers, of a greater feast still to come. While we feast, we watch.
Eat, drink, and be merry, but don’t lose sight of the Bridegroom Who will come soon. Consider our Lord’s Words near the end of the parable: if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. It’s almost like Advent all over again. Here we are back to watching and preparing. Nevertheless, the Christian Church always lives in a state of preparedness for the return of the Savior.
It is useless to take part in the seemingly eternal guessing game about when will Christ return. The answer to that question is simple: soon. How soon is soon? Soon. Be ready. Jesus could come before the end of this sermon, or before the end of Divine Service. We are so weighed down with worrying about earthly matters that we forget to take care of eternal matters. Worse yet, we think eternal matters will all pan out in the end. It’s best not to worry about it. God will tend to it.
Don’t look now, but the thief is breaking into the house. Watch. Be ready. Jesus is coming. When He comes, He will serve His servants what He brings from the wedding feast in heaven, just as He serves us heavenly things hidden under earthly things. What is hidden now will be revealed then. The grace of God we receive through faith in Christ will be handed out recklessly when the Master comes home from the wedding. He will serve the love of God that knows no boundaries to servants who have been watching patiently, perhaps fitfully, but patiently for His coming. The love of the Father once hidden in flesh will be gloriously manifested before our eyes. What He has will be ours in abundant fullness. The losers who seem like party-poopers hanging around at the house will have great joy showered upon them. The so-called winners who couldn’t stop partying to watch for the Master will not have a share in the eternal wedding feast.
There is a thread of sobriety to New Year’s Eve. The Chief Hymn tonight speaks of quiet reflection on the year past, remembering our loved ones who have gone before us in the faith, and hope for mercy in the year to come. There is no doubt the Lord will not be slack in delivering His mercy on us in the year of our Lord 2017. There is a time to reflect quietly on the year past and remembering those we know who died in the Lord this past year. Hidden among all the serious pondering is the joy that the Christ Child brings again this Christmastide. His birth according to the flesh starts the fast-moving train of redemption into light speed. Christ’s redemption gives us a seat at the wedding feast that never ends. Our prayer tonight is that this feast comes soon to us, and in its coming that we may remain faithful in order to receive the Crown of Life that shall never fade away.
Auld lang syne indeed. The old will pass. The new will come. For He has come to make all things new. Amen.