New Year’s Eve
Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus
December 31, 2011
At the close of this year we are reminded that time doesn’t stop. It will when our Lord comes again in glory. But for now, time keeps ticking; and in a few hours it will be a new year. Next year may be just like this year in that in one year from now we will be closing out the year here in God’s House on New Year’s Eve. In other words, our Lord may not elect to come again in glory at some point in 2012. But He may. Whether or not He does we know He’s coming again to put an end to this world and to time as we know it. We don’t know when it will be we just know it will be.
Our Lord’s command to us is to stay dressed for action. It would be one thing for Him to exhort us to dress ourselves for action. But He doesn’t do that. He tells us to stay dressed for action. That tells us something about ourselves. We are already dressed for action. We are in a state where we are ready. What we need to do is stay ready. We need to stay dressed for action.
In order to do that we must see how it is that we are clothed, dressed, for action. Our Lord is the one who clothes us. He clothes us to serve. The Bible has many places where this imagery is used for Baptism. We are clothed with Christ. In repentance, which is the daily living out of Baptism, we put on Christ. In other words, He is the garment of salvation that we wear in the new life we have in Baptism. In Baptism our Lord clothes us. He is the new clothing we wear even as we live in this fallen world and are still wrapped up in our sinful flesh.
What does it mean that we have this clothing of salvation? That we wear Christ as our daily clothing? It means we are called to new life. We are called to serve. We are clothed in Christ, in salvation, and that new life is lived out in serving. Serving is done is action. That’s why our Lord in the third reading exhorts us to stay dressed for action.
Jesus is telling the way we are to be ready. He says, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” These men are servants. Their master is gone but he will return. They need to be ready for when he returns even though they don’t know when it will be. The way they are dressed is in robes. The robes men wore in that culture prevented them from impulsive action. Trying to run in them would trip them up. In order to stay dressed for action they would tuck the flowing part of the robe in their belt so that they could be ready at any time.
This is Jesus’ command to us. Stay dressed for action. Be ready at any time. Since years come and go it is tempting for us to think He will not return in glory in our lifetime. But it could happen in our lifetime. It could happen at any time, that’s what we know. Not knowing exactly when shows us why we need to stay dressed for action. We need to live as we are called. We need to live out the life our Lord has given us in Baptism. That means serving. God’s people serve. We are always dressed for action. Ready to help others in need.
Maybe you’ve looked back on the past year and regret some of the opportunities you passed on to help others in need. Maybe you’ve thought about those times this past year where you were called upon to serve in a capacity and you immediately thought of a list of ten things preventing you from doing it rather than taking some time to consider it and pray about it, even if you ended up declining. Maybe you’ve looked back on this past year and realize that you have mostly gained enjoyment in your life from fulfilling your own needs and wants and not much from helping others in their needs. Maybe you plan on seeking more opportunities to serve in the new year.
Seeing where you have fallen in short is valuable. It’s part of repentance. That’s how the Lord’s people stay dressed for action, by being repentant people. It’s one thing to talk about all the many ways to serve, and we should talk about those things. And of course we should actually do those things as well. But we also must remember that we can only serve by staying dressed for action. There is no action, no serving God, without staying dressed for it.
That’s why in the new year we will ask our Lord to bless us to be repentant people. To be in His Word, both in daily personal and/or family devotions and also with our brother and sister Christians in Bible Class. To continue to be here in our Lord’s House to hear His Word, to partake of His Holy Supper, to confess together with our brother and sister Christians, to exhort one another, to encourage and comfort one another.
We don’t know when our Lord will return in glory, but we don’t need to. What we need to know is what we already know. We know that He is our Lord and our Savior. We know He has already come and that He has dressed Himself for service. He came dressed in servant’s clothing and put on the filthy garment of our sins in His suffering and death on the cross. He was clothed in glory when He exited the grave three days later. Though remaining in glory He continues to dress Himself for service as He comes to us in Baptism and as He hosts us at His Table and receive Him in body and blood.
He has clothed in Baptism, we were the passive recipients of eternal salvation, clothed in Christ. Dressed in this way we are dressed for action. We stay dressed for action by the same receiving of His grace and mercy in His Gospel and His Sacraments. This is what He has done for you this past year and will continue to do in the new year, even to eternity. Amen.