December 31, 2011
TEXT: Isaiah 30:8-17/Romans 8:31b-39/Luke 12:35-40
DRESSED AND READY
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and a Blessed New Year to each of you! Amen.

Tonight is a good night for reflection. The last day of the year 2011 is a time to remember all that happened over the past year and to plan ahead for 2012. New Year’s Eve is a night to think about getting a fresh start in the New Year – to work on all those projects you’ve wanted to but haven’t had time for – to review mistakes and find out how to prevent them in the future.

Many things happen in the course of a year: governments are toppled, floods ravage, new films and books are released, and  Bin Laden and Kim Jong Il and Gaddafi are dead; closer to home, babies were born, Wisconsin sports teams played even better than usual, and so many other things that seem less remarkable happened: we went to work, took tests and got report cards, ate dinner, raked the yard, did the dishes, and maybe we’ll watch TV and see the ball drop in Times Square tonight. It may have not been all that amazing of a year. But it is still a good night for reflection.

December 31, 2011
TEXT: Isaiah 30:8-17/Romans 8:31b-39/Luke 12:35-40
DRESSED AND READY
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and a Blessed New Year to each of you! Amen.

Tonight is a good night for reflection. The last day of the year 2011 is a time to remember all that happened over the past year and to plan ahead for 2012. New Year’s Eve is a night to think about getting a fresh start in the New Year – to work on all those projects you’ve wanted to but haven’t had time for – to review mistakes and find out how to prevent them in the future.

Many things happen in the course of a year: governments are toppled, floods ravage, new films and books are released, and Bin Laden and Kim Jong Il and Gaddafi are dead; closer to home, babies were born, Wisconsin sports teams played even better than usual, and so many other things that seem less remarkable happened: we went to work, took tests and got report cards, ate dinner, raked the yard, did the dishes, and maybe we’ll watch TV and see the ball drop in Times Square tonight. It may have not been all that amazing of a year. But it is still a good night for reflection.


We reflect on the things that change throughout a year – our children, our jobs, our elected officials, ourselves, just about everything. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Christians don’t just reflect on how boring and predictable life can be, nor on how everything changes. Instead, we reflect on the one thing that never changes: God’s grace for us. Every year, God waits to be gracious to you (Is. 30:18), and He graciously gives you all things (Rm. 8:32).  

The best way to ready our hearts for God’s grace in the New Year is to reflect on our sin. As much as we seem to be losing control of our circumstances, we admit that our short tempers are at the root of many problems. Focusing on ourselves instead of the needs of our neighbors is one of the sins that makes life bitter. Unholy alliances with the world drive us out of God’s family. Living in the past and remembering the sins of others makes us forget our own sins and our desperate need for forgiveness and peace.

Remembering this past year is not so much a recounting of successes and failures, scores and raises, crucial moments and happy feelings. Rather, just like any day, New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on our need for forgiveness and God’s immediate willingness to give it. Tonight is a perfect opportunity to give heed to the warning in the Holy Scriptures against unholy alliances and sinful rebellion.

You see, during this past year, we have experienced the same problem as the ancient nation of Israel. The Israelites got tired and bored with Isaiah’s preaching. Their response was: “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Our response to God’s Law and Gospel in His preached Word is similar: “Don’t tell me I’m wrong. Preach soft to me. Tell me stories, tell me about the news, and speak in generalities; I’m tired of hearing about God all the time. It’s not relevant to me.”

The thing is, if you do not hear the preaching of God’s Law to your sinful heart, the breach in the high wall will give way, and the dam will burst, and the flood of sin and wrath will drown you. When the levee breaks, you’ll have no place to stay. You would be all alone, like a flagpole sitting on a mountain, crushed by iniquities without God’s grace. An alliance with Egypt, an alliance with money, or with yourself, or any of your other idols will leave you like a smashed piece of pottery, broken shards lying on the ground, unusable for anything.

That’s a cause for reflection. Alliances with the world can’t save you this New Year’s Eve, and smooth preaching can’t comfort you. But after we reflect on God’s Law, we hear that He is ready to give His Gospel. He makes us ready by repentance. “For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (Is. 30:18) “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes!” (Lk. 12:37) “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lm. 3:25) “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.” (Is. 30:18)

We have God’s promise that “as soon as he hears [your cry], he answers you.” (Is. 30:19) That is why we cry out to God, “we have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed…have mercy on us!” Here is something that never changes – God always hears our confession! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness!” (1 Jn. 1:8)

Are you ready for a New Year? By God’s grace, you are. The parable of the ready servants warns you to “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.” (Lk. 12:35-36) Being dressed for action means to be ready for the Passover, just like God commanded the Israelites: “…with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” (Ex. 12:11) Being dressed for action means having your long robes gathered up and tied – your cloak already having been tucked into your belt – ready to walk out the door at a moment’s notice! The Greek participle here is passive – God is the one who has already made you ready!

Jesus Christ is already dressed and ready to forgive you, because He once dressed Himself for service, and He came and served you (Lk. 12:37). Jesus was born in great humility, dressed only in swaddling clothes, sleeping in a wooden feeding trough. Jesus laid aside His outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, and girded up His clothes so He could wash His disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:4-5). Jesus was ready to do His Father’s will – to be dressed down in a sham trial, to have his clothing taken away and divided up, to have His life taken on the cross to save you from your sins. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rm. 8:32)

Our God is a God who constantly has His robes girded up and is ready to serve you. As soon you cry out to Him for forgiveness, He is dressed and ready to forgive you. When you drop your heavy load of sins, guilt, disappointment, sickness, and sadness into Jesus’ arms, He girds Himself up for service, seats you at His table, and feeds you the comforting food of His true Body and Blood. When you reflect on this past year of things both good and bad, He resolves never to leave you or forsake you, because He loves you, and that will never change.
Jesus is patient! His love lasts more than a day, or a month, or a year – “The Lord waits to be gracious to you!” Look how long He has already waited for the lost since His first coming – over 2,000 years! “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pt. 3:8-9)  He will dress Himself for service and have you recline at table, and He will come and serve you! “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk. 10:45)

While remembering this past year, we reflect on God’s grace. For, as Samuel said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Sam. 7:12) The wisdom of Psalm 90 guides us in the New Year: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations…from everlasting to everlasting You are God…For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past…For all our days pass away under Your wrath…The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty, yet…they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to number our days that we get a heart of wisdom…Let your work be shown to Your servants, and your glorious power to their children.”

The grace of God remains, and it is yours in 2012 through Jesus Christ. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rm. 8:38-39) Jesus is dressed and ready to serve You at His everlasting feast in heaven (Mt. 22:2), and He gives you a foretaste of that feast when He serves You at His table right here. He dresses you and makes you ready as you fasten the belt of truth, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:14-15) “He who calls you is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24)

“Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come; Be Thou our guard while troubles last And our eternal home.”

Happy New Year!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


THE PRAYERS
A Let us pray with thanksgiving to God for another year of grace.
P Heavenly Father, giver and preserver of all things, we give thanks to You for the blessings You have generously bestowed upon us during this past year.  We praise you for sustaining us in struggles and affliction.  Continue to enlighten our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may steadfastly rejoice in our Baptismal identity as Your children and hunger and thirst for Your righteousness through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  C. Amen.

A Let us pray that God will keep us vigilant as we await His return.
P Eternal Father, help us to order our days and our deeds in Your peace. Give us godly wisdom to manage our time that we may pursue the health and welfare of our neighbor. Through Your means of grace keep us prepared for Your final day of judgment. Grant that we may live peaceable with one another, as we anticipate the Lord’s return in glory;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  C. Amen. 

A Let us pray for those who are ill or enduring affliction or who are in sorrow, that God may grant healing and comfort.
P Merciful Lord, You are the strength of the weak and the comfort of all who call upon You - mercifully hear our prayers for those who are sick or receiving treatment or facing lingering struggles (especially Krisi and Darice and Helen and Zane and Irv).  According to Your good will, grant healing and help. Hear us also for Sharon and Steve in their sorrow.  As we know it is Your will grant patience in the midst of suffering, grace sufficient for their afflictions, and comfort in their grief through Jesus Christ, our Lord. C. Amen.

A.   Let us pray in thanksgiving for God’s good gift of marriage and for those engaged to be married.
P Merciful Lord, at the creation of Adam and Eve You instituted and blessed marriage between a man and a woman to be honored by all.  Grant Your blessing to all married couples that their union be blessed with wisdom, self- sacrifice, and forgiving love.  Behold with favor Benjamin and Erica, and Aaron and Leslie, who have pledged their loving commitment to each other.  Help them to prepare for their exchange of vows - that with You as their God they may live in marriage to Your honor and to their blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  C. Amen.

A. Let us pray for our enemies.
P Merciful Lord, You always remain steadfast to provide healing and restoration.  Move in the hearts of our enemies that they may be turned away from hatred and toward the Gospel, receiving and giving Your love to all; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  C. Amen.

A Let us pray that we receive the Lord’s body and blood for the strengthening of our faith.
P Gracious Father, at His circumcision Your Son Jesus Christ, began His work of fulfilling the law in our place and foreshadowed His blood poured out on the cross. As we approach this altar to receive our Lord’s precious body and precious blood, grant us Your Holy Spirit that our faith would be strengthened and that we would receive the abundance of forgiveness, life, and salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  C. Amen.

A Finally, let us pray that the Lord would abide with us in both life and in death.
P O Lord, lead us onward in life until our rest is won. And when our last hour comes, support us by Your power and receive us into Your heavenly kingdom which has no end, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  C. Amen. 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a