New Year’s Eve
+ IN NOMINE IESU +
Unless their conscience is completely seared, most people believe that one can’t begin a new year better than by making good resolutions. It’s only natural that those whose hearts are not completely hardened would begin the new year in this way. For when we all consider on this evening how often we have sinned in the past year, and the many thousands of benefits God has permitted us to enjoy anyhow, how with each new day God’s goodness rose over us, how God’s fatherly hand has guided us despite our unfaithfulness, and give us a new year despite this, who wouldn’t firmly resolve to live better in the year to come?
Yet we dare not suppose that this resolution making is in fact the proper way to begin a new year. Our resolutions cannot make good the sins of the past, even if we were to fulfill them all. If the sins of the old year are still charged against us, what good will it do to try to begin the new with a clean slate? If the sins of the old year still accuse us, what good will it do to live in the new with this condemnation still over us?
And we must bear in mind this also: Who actually has carried out all his good resolutions? Were not our hearts and minds full of the same good resolutions last year as they are today? But have we kept them? Have we done what we promised ourselves, let alone God, a year ago?
No, resolutions is not the way to start the new year off right. The only way to begin the new year is with repentance and faith in Christ because then we do not have to carry the sins of the old year over into the new, and because then we are also properly prepared to meet the fateful future.
Tomorrow the church celebrates the Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus. It is the commemoration when Mary and Joseph brought Christ the Lord, an eight-day-old infant, to the Temple to be circumcised according to the divine Law. Even as an infant, Christ was obedient to the Law of God, fulfilling it’s demands as though He was a sinner himself. But Christ did not need this for Himself. He was no sinner. But He subjected Himself to it for our sake, sheding his blood for the first time in fulfillment of His name. For He shall be called Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.
And in so doing, He erased those sins that we committed by transgression of the divine Law. The drops of blood that Christ shed at His circumcision were the down payment for the infinite guilt of the whole sinful world that we would blot out by the shedding of His blood on the cross. By God’s grace and mercy, and out of love for us, he gave us His own Son, the very Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world.
You only need ask yourself this: Are you part of the world for which Christ died? Are you a citizen of the world for which Christ rose again in victory over sin and death?
Indeed you are. You’re sins have been paid for by the one who shed His blood in Jerusalem on the 8th day and on the last day at Calvary. And to ensure you of this, what was won for you once for all at Calvary was applied to you in with the Water and the Word in Holy Baptism, when you were marked in your own skin, not with knife or nail, thorn, and spear, but with the sign of the holy cross upon your forehead and heart as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.
Believe in this. Trust in this, and the sins of your past, the resolutions done and left undone are removed from you as far as the East is from the West. The New Year is yours.
But now, as we start the new year with faith in the Christ who died, and faith in the Christ who rose to take away sin, we also then likewise begin it aright because with repentance and faith in this Christ we are completely equipped to meet the future.
Entering a new year isn’t like entering a house that can be inspected completely as the door is opened. A year has days and hours, it has time that passes, and thus the gates that open up to us only open to us one by one, every day, every hour. It lies dark before us. It is a mystery to us. But we do know this: The new year, just like the old year, will bring temptations to sin, along with new suffering and even new joys.
Our text says: “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning . . . be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
We don’t know what the days ahead hold for us. But we do know that Christ has paid for our sins. Not only those of the past, but even those of the future. We know that He is coming back for us.
When we live our lives, our years in and out, with repentance and faith in Christ, we are prepared for whatever may come. For by this we are made ready. By this does He clothe us for action. By this does he keep our lamps burning. Through His Word and His Sacraments, he clothes us with His own righteousness, giving us His own status as Sons of God the Father.
With this, we are prepared and equipped to face whatever may befall us. If it is sin, we are made ready to confess it and amend our lives in Him. If it is suffering, we know that this present suffering is not to be compared with the joy that awaits us in heaven, and that what we suffer here is allowed by the God who suffered on our behalf and he is good and loving, even when we don’t feel it. If it is joy, it is a joy for which we give thanks for it can only come from God’s hands.
So Happy New Year! And happy it will be when with repentance and faith in Jesus you are assured of salvation from all sins, past, present and future. Happy it will be when with repentance and faith in Jesus you experience suffering: For in poverty, you will find riches in the grace of your Savior, in shame, the honor of divine adoption remains yours, in sickness, you have the comfort of the Gospel, and should death come, it will be your victorious entry into the mansions of eternal rest. And happy it will be indeed, when with repentance and faith in Jesus you experience joy, and not let even this tear you from Christ who promises a joy beyond what you know here.
So if there be any resolutions among us, let us resolve to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified for our salvation. For Christ resolved to know nothing other for you. Amen.