Nothing lasts long. Flowers sure don’t. Our poinsettias may last a month, but they can’t stay here forever. Flowers that have been in church often last no more than a week. We wish they’d last longer, but they just don’t. Flowers fade and then they fall off. They don’t last. Grass dies and goes brown. Corn stalks go yellow. We die. And years come to an end.
This is the way it’s been since all things were created. The earth was created and time began. It started rotating and then it started revolving around the sun. Time began when God created the heavens and the earth. Before that time was eternity. Once He ends this creation, time will end and we will enter eternity. In the meantime, year flows into year, decade into decade, century into century, millennium into millennium. Only 1 thing stays the same: God and His Word.
We are changing. We may look a little different than we did a year ago. We may feel a little different. We may have lost people or things or gained them. It may have been a good year or a bad year or even a blah year. As we got older, we realized things aren’t the same any more. Little things perhaps are changing for the worse, whether physical or mental. The children grew bigger and stronger, and perhaps more strong-willed too.
We are changing. Yet we aren’t changing. Kids are meant to grow up and get stronger. God designed it that way. He didn’t design us so we’d get worse though. He designed us to live forever. I don’t know if flowers would have, but death entered the world through sin, so I suppose that must have brought into existence the seasons and life-cycles of plants as we know them. Certainly the Arctic winter cold of this last year is not part of an original perfect world.
Death is here. We are perishable. We are corruptible. This is because we are corrupted and worthy to perish. We are corrupted. We ought to perish. This is not how God created us. He created us able to not sin. He created us able to not die. But here we are sinners preparing to die. Adam’s sin at the beginning of time has corrupted us. It has made us mortal, able to perish. It injected sin into us, and with it death; not just the death of the body though, but the eternal death of the soul in hell.
How do you know this is true? Take a close look at your heart. Is it pure? Is it noble? Or is it impure? Is it black with sin? Is it full of love, or does it harbor evil, anger, and hatred? What’s in there? Have you checked it out lately? Do you like what you see? Is there some stuff you’d like to get rid of some time? Is it all pretty good? What’s in your heart? Would you want me to take a look at it some time?
I’m not a heart doctor. You know I couldn’t pass as a heart doctor if I tried. But I am a soul-doctor. This is the job of the pastor. He is sent by God to cure souls, to cure sinful hearts. The cure can only do us any good when we recognize our sinfulness. He does not come for the righteous, but for sinners, He says. Only those who recognize their sins can desire God’s grace. The Gospel cannot help those who see no need for it. It helps those who confess their sins and realize they cannot save themselves; it helps those who confess they need God’s help, and His help alone, to enter into eternal life.
So what do you have to say? This night is a good one for reflection. We can’t help but look back over the past year and think about how things went right or wrong, how resolutions were kept or broken, how we wish things would have turned out and how they did turn out. As we pass through the year, we can’t help but see all our faults, our own faults, or own most grievous faults. Perhaps they seem little, perhaps they seem large. But no sin is too little for God to overlook.
No sin is too little. He sees them all, and they all offend Him. He demands perfection. He sees all, knows all, hears all, and feels all. No sin escapes His notice. No sin escapes Him. He’s aware of them all and He can’t stand any of them. He must rid the world of sin. He must punish it. His Law gives Him no other choice. And you, O corrupt child of man, must perish.
But God doesn’t like that ending. He doesn’t like that ending to your year, and He doesn’t like that ending to your life. He doesn’t want your end to come with you perishing in hell. He doesn’t want your year to end with you sorrowing over sins you cannot escape. He wants it to end with cheer in His Gospel. He wants your end to be eternal life with Him.
Therefore He sent His Son. He did not send an angel of lowest rank. He didn’t dispatch a mere mortal. He sent His dearest treasure. He sent His heart’s love. He sent His Image. He sent His Only-begotten Son. He did not send Him to give us a few special and persuasive feel-better-about-yourself or motivational speeches. He did not send Him to give us a sure-fire way to improve or be better. He sent Him to die. He sent Him to be crucified.
But that crucifixion is not the ugliest incident in history. That distinction belongs to Adam’s sin that plunged us into sin and death. Though The Cross is ugly, it is beautiful, the most beautiful thing in all the world, far surpassing your Christmas tree. For on that Cross He suffered for all your sins. There all the blackness in your heart, blackness so deep not even you know about it, fled to His shoulders to be punished in His Death. There the years were purified. There time was redeemed. There you were saved.
So purify your soul. How can a corrupt sinner do this? How can the corrupt become incorrupt? How can the perishable become imperishable? St. Peter says you have been born again through the living and abiding Word of God. That’s how you’ve been purified. You went through the waters of Holy Baptism. There God the Holy Ghost took your sins from you and replaced it with the righteousness and forgiveness and holiness Jesus won for you on His Cross. There He purified you of sin.
How can you remain holy? Return to your Baptism every day. How do you do that? You were only baptized once. You return to it every time you confess your sins and are absolved. You hear that your sins, the sins you have confessed, are forgiven, and you are purified once more. You return to it whenever you come to this rail to receive His Body and Blood. For there He again forgives your sins and pledges to raise you from death on the last day.
All flesh is grass. Everything comes to an end. 2017 will end in less than 4 hours. But then 2018 will begin. This world will end. But then eternal life will begin. So we prepare for the King to come on that day. Repent. Be absolved. Hear His Word. Receive His Sacrament. These are the most important things for you to do throughout next year and every year that may come after it. This is how you will enter into eternal life as the baptized of The Lamb.