Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 30:8-17
Epistle Reading: Romans 8:31b-39
Gradual: Psalm 90:12,14
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:35-40
Tonight’s epistle from Romans is filled with rhetorical questions. Questions for which no answer is required, at least to be spoken verbally. Whatever the answer is, it ought to be obvious. Such as, can fish swim? Can birds fly? Do dogs bark?
Paul rhetorically asks “who can be against us?” Who shall bring any charge against us? Who is to condemn? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” It’s an obvious and resounding, no! No one! None to condemn! Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The apostle Paul is staring down the wolf, the devil, and his angels in absolute defiance. This is a challenge. He’s mocking this wicked world filled with trouble and all of its temptations toward despair and hopelessness. He’s mocking that devil, Satan, the accuser, and all his hoards.
And Paul’s logic is sound. If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Don’t let that rhetorical question go over your head! Open your ears and take this one to the bank. If God did not withhold his own son, but gave to you his most precious treasure, and a kingdom of grace and blessedness, how/why/how could you ever imagine him leaving you in the lurch.
The rhetorical questions Paul puts before us should be obvious. But sadly, they’re not. Because the sad truth is that you spend too much of your life as one already beaten. Already defeated and run down. As if it were you alone against the world, with no Christ, no Immanuel, at your side. Left alone with your thoughts, your sin, and no one to help.
On this New Year’s Eve, just consider all your worry over this past year. Consider the sheer magnitude of your faithless fears, your anxieties, and even paranoia about the world and all the people around you – all throughout this last year. Face it. You’ve imagined the very worst for yourself! So what did all that worry in 2018 get you? What did you gain by fearing the absolute worst for yourself, and those you love?
Well, that’s a rhetorical question too. Obviously, you got nothing. And that mindset only robbed you of the joy that your Lord actually intends for you as a baptized child – to trust in Him with cheerful confidence.
Be courageous enough to hear the Word of the Lord and to believe it. Again, if God is for us, who can be against us? Christmas, once you get past the deceptive wrapping of it all, whether it’s elaborate feasts and victories in the kitchen you can’t pull off, awkward relatives, and various emotional crises with no end, Christmas is only about one thing: the incarnation of God in human flesh. And that is where we see that God is for us, even if the world seems to rage against us.
Christmas is proof positive that God actually loves us, despite all evidence to the contrary. Good Friday, Easter Sunday in some ways are a foregone conclusion as soon as his little form is conceived in Mary’s womb. How could he not obey His Father’s will? How could he not carry the cross, suffer and die for our sins? How could he not be raised from the dust of death, seeing that sin and hell had no claim on him? Of course, he would lay siege to the devil’s kingdom, be raised up, seated at God’s right – and bring us with him – that where He is we might also be.
Isn’t it great to begin the new year under the Lordship of Christ? God is on our side. He is our Immanuel – God with us. Actively working to bring good out of evil. 2019 will be 2019 Anno Domini – the year of the Lord. His year – another year of grace - a year rich in blessings and also a year no doubt filed with crosses specially crafted for your special frame.
Tonight on this New Year’s Eve, not knowing what lies ahead, we may, like St. Paul, draw a line in the sand against all our enemies and faithless fear. Who can be against us? What need have we to worry and despair?
No, in all these things, in troubles, afflictions, bitter loss, and disappointments, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Being sure, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present not things to come, nor power, 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.
Tonight in our Gospel Jesus tells us to be dressed for action, like conquerors you might say, with lamps burning, waiting for the Lord’s glorious return and wedding feast to come. So how perfect you’re here at church. Awake, ready, and keeping vigil where Christ promises to be. In his body and blood given and shed for you.
So eat and drink, sing and pray, laugh and deride the devil. And let go of every fear. Imagine the very best for yourself. That you are redeemed, saved, and loved by God and that his will for you is always good because it is. This no prosperity Gospel. It’s just the Gospel. Remember the individual absolution you received tonight, in which you heard God’s approval of you, through the forgiveness of sins. Eat His body and drink his blood. Then go home with God’s blessings, Spirit, and holy angels by your side, and contemplate this joyful question: If God is for us, who can be against us?