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Private Confession: By Appointment

No Reason To Fear The New Year

December 31, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Timothy Landskroener

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Immanuel (Augsburg) Lutheran Church
Shobonier, Illinois
New Year’s Eve
December 31, 2021
Romans 8:31-39; Luke 12:35-40

No Reason to Fear the New Year

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 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? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)

Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Isaiah says it is in quietness and trust that we find our strength (Is. 30:15). If that’s true, and it certainly is, then we can do no better this night than take to heart the words of tonight's Epistle. If you've got God on your side, if God is "for you," then what do you have to fear? If God has loved you so much that He did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for you, then how will He not graciously give you all things with Him? If God is the One who has declared you "not guilty" in His Son, then who is it that will be able to bring any charge whatsoever against you? No one! For you are God’s child; Christ Jesus died for you, was raised for you, sits at the right hand of His Father and ceaselessly intercedes on your behalf.

Do not be deceived, however. For if God is not on your side, or, rather, you are not on God’s side, beware. If you live contrary to God and His Word, if you reject what He says about sin, if you refuse to repent of your sin and cling to wickedness, if you refuse to love and forgive your neighbor, you will find that God is not on your side, that He is not for you, but against you. May it never be! Repent!

That’s why, as we end one year and begin another, we want to focus on what’s most important, and that is God’s love for you in Christ. It’s so important that St. Paul asks, “Who [or what] shall separate you from the love of Christ?”

Tribulation? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Nakedness? Danger? Sword?

Beloved, though we don’t want to think about such things, any of those things, and more besides, can and might befall us in the New Year. We'd be utter fools to imagine that our God was some sort of good luck charm that we keep around to ward off trouble. That's not how our God works - not the God who came among us as a little child so that He could bleed and suffer, agonize and die for us. We don't gather tonight to plead with God to keep trouble out of our way in the new year or to thank Him merely for keeping trouble out of our way in the year that is ending. Who among us didn't have tribulation and distress in his life this year? Who wasn't confronted at one time or another with danger? No, thinking that way only leads to fretting and fear. Trouble will come to you this year. You can bank on it. "For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." "And another one bites the dust." That's the way life is in this fallen age - an age where sin festers until it is made visible in death.

But the Apostle doesn't stop there. It's true that troubles will abound. It's true that this year may very well bring you things harder to bear than any you've had to face in your life yet. It's true that your final struggle with death itself may await you in 2022. Yet, there's a bigger truth than that, a greater truth that allows us to face it all with hope and joy that no trouble of this world can destroy.

"No," shouts the Apostle! "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." And who is that? Jesus Christ, of course! For He is the One who loved us so as to take on our flesh and be born of the Virgin and laid in the manger. He loved us so as to shed His infant blood in circumcision and be placed under the Law so that He might fulfill it wholly for us. He loved us so as to shoulder the burden of our sins and carry them to death on Golgotha's tree. In Him and in Him alone we are and can be more than conquerors of the troubles and trials that face us. More than conquerors, how? Why?

Listen! "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 - ANYTHING ELSE in ALL creation - will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Do you get that? In Jesus, God has loved you with a love that cannot be shaken or destroyed. It's a love that is stronger than anything you will have to go through this year. It's a love that is more powerful than the worst ravages of sin and death. And it's all yours in your Lord, in Jesus.

That’s why tonight is sometimes called “Watch Night.” It’s not about waiting and watching for a time on the clock, or for a ball to drop. It most certainly is not a night to indulge in drunkenness and revelry. It is about waiting and watching for Jesus’ return. In fact, that’s the way of life for God’s children. We live each day fulfilling the duties of our callings as we await our Master’s return. We want to be found faithful and awake for that day and hour when He returns.

And when our Master returns, when Jesus returns, He does the most shocking thing – He dresses Himself for service and has you recline at table as He serves you. He switches places with you. He, the Master and Lord, serves you, His servants. He has taken your place under the divine punishment your sin deserves. And He comes to serve you with forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Certainly, He does this in spades in the Holy Supper. In that Meal, it is as though He whispered: "Child, I have loved you all the way to my cross. Your sins are covered in my blood. Your death is destroyed in my risen body. And as the promise, the guarantee that I am with you and for you and on your side and your dearest Friend forever, I reach you now that same body and blood. That's how you can know that I am for you, and that nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - can separate you from my love." That’s why we gladly receive that service each Lord’s Day.

So, whenever we come to Him at His table and receive His service, we experience exactly what Isaiah said: "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." Grant it to us, dear Lord, tonight and in the year to come, that we might meet whatever awaits us in the days ahead in the certainty and joy of Your unshakeable love, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Rev. Timothy J. Landskroener
Pastor
Immanuel Lutheran Church of Augsburg
1297 E 900 Ave.
Shobonier, IL 62885