Monday, December 31, 2007

Get Ready, Get Set, …and Wait

New Year’s Eve
Eve of the Name of Jesus
Wednesday, December 31, 2007
Luke 12:35-40

I love paradoxes. A paradox is something that appears to be contradictory but in actuality is true. In the Gospel reading Jesus exhorts us to be dressed for action and only a few words later says that we are to be like those who are waiting for their master to come. Action and waiting are two opposite things. But Jesus is telling us that the way we are to act is by waiting and the way we are to be waiting is by acting.

As odd as it sounds, it’s actually pretty easy to see what Jesus is getting at. The servants are to be waiting for their master to return, that’s easy enough to understand. But does waiting mean standing around doing nothing? Of course not. They are to be waiting by working. There’s stuff to be done before he returns! So they are to act by waiting and wait by acting.

But while that’s easy enough to understand as an analogy of a master and his estate, do we understand it as Jesus Christ’s Church? The purpose of His analogy is to talk about Himself and His Church. He is returning again in glory and we are to wait for Him. But we’re certainly not supposed to sit around and do nothing. We must act. We must work. There’s a lot to be done before He returns!

The last day of the year is a natural time to think about the fact that time is fleeting. That one day God will bring all this to an end. That we are like a puff of smoke in the scheme of things. It might seem like He’s a long time in coming back, but if we laze around we will be surprised by His return in judgment. Either that or our possible untimely death.

The paradoxical way the Scriptures guide us to live in this way, to get ready for action and to wait for our Lord’s Return, is to be in the very Scriptures themselves. Isaiah talks about they that wait upon the Lord—they shall renew their strength. The reason this is paradoxical is because we are acting, we are doing, it takes work. Being in the Word of God takes time and discipline. And yet, it is a passive thing also. We are receiving. We are being blessed by God. We are “waiting” upon the Lord. He is the one doing the actual hard work. He’s busy blessing us and strengthening us.

It’s also paradoxical that this is the business we’re to be about—being in His Word—while waiting for Him to return in glory, when, in fact, He is already coming to us in that very Word. And in His Sacraments. Yes, our Lord loves to deal in paradoxes. Maybe it’s fun for Him. Maybe He just doesn’t want us to get bored. Maybe it’s simply because paradoxes aren’t by nature untrue but true. When we see them for what they really are, we know that they in fact ring true. That they hit home.

We know, don’t we, that life is not one dimensional. God is much deeper than simply being a grandfatherly chap like Santa Claus. He’s rich in character and depth. He also has a mysteriousness about Him. He has a majestic quality. He is, in fact, holy. And yet, He became a man. A human being. A baby. It’s a paradox, but it’s good that He did this! That He’s God and actively accomplishing our salvation, and humble in passively receiving the punishment for our sin.

Paradoxically, though the servants are the ones called upon by the master to get busy, when he comes home and finds them having faithfully done so, he actually tells them to be seated. For he will now serve them. They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength because He will serve them. That is the paradox, the Lord of all waits upon us. He comes to serve us. So when we’re busy about the business of being in His Word we’re actually being served by the Lord Himself.

Tomorrow a new year begins. It’s a good time to get busy. Wait upon the Lord. Be in His Word. Renew your strength by being seated at His Table. He will serve you with His very Body and Blood. As you are served by Him you will see the many opportunities to serve others in your life. It will be in simple things, like helping someone out. Or in being there for them when they’re in great need. But most of all, you will see what a blessing it is to share what the world cannot offer—and that is Christ Himself.

When you point the way to Christ, you will be pointing the way to salvation. That Christ came not to be served but to serve. He gave His life so that all may have salvation. This is the kind of hope Jesus gives us for the new year, but especially for eternity. Amen.


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