1st Sunday after Christmas
December 31, 2017
“Whose Idea Was This?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today the sermon will once again be based on the Second Lesson from Galatians 4.
My Dear Friends,
Happy New Year! Now, with that being said, whose idea was this? Church on New Year’s Eve? Well, New Year’s celebration on the weekend is not all that uncommon. It just so happens that 2017 started that way with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on Saturday and Sunday. It also happened in 2012 when I was in Braham, MN. It happened in 2006 when I was in Crosslake, MN. It happened in 1995 when I was in Baudette, MN. I was also in Baudette when it occurred in 1989; Joanne and I were just about to complete our first year of marriage. When you look back at life like that, you realize just how fast it can and does change. And, in case you’re curious, it will happen again in 2023 so start planning ahead, I guess.
So…the question remains. Whose idea was this? That would be the folks who established the Gregorian Calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the most internationally used civil calendar. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. The calendar was a refinement to the Julian calendar involving a 0.002% correction in the length of the year. The motivation for calendar reform was to stop the “drift” of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes and solstices—particularly the vernal equinox, which set the date for Easter celebrations every year. So, in other words, it was the Church’s idea…not mine. Not that it matters to me. My days of being hung over on New Year’s Day are long since in my rear-view mirror of life!
Now that we have that solved, have you ever asked yourself the same question in regards to salvation: “Whose idea was this? Why would God send a baby?” Good question. Here is a fun fact to start your new year. How many times does the word “baby” appear in the 39 books of the Old Testament (ESV)? Answer? Once. Only in Exodus 2. This is the narrative in which a certain infant is spared from certain death, raised by a special family, spends time as a shepherd, and then later embarks on a task in which he leads God’s people out of bondage. His name? Moses. And just as Moses did in the Old Testament, Jesus will do in the New Testament once and for all. Jesus is spared from certain death at the hands of Herod’s goons. He is raised by a special family – Joseph and Mary. Jesus spends 3 years shepherding: preaching, teaching, leading, healing, feeding, and nurturing. And, yes, He too will lead the people out of bondage…bondage to sin, death, and the devil.
Okay, I see that connection…but why a BABY? Well, in order to save us, Jesus had to be one of us. And how did we all start life? As babies, of course. Isaiah 7: “The virgin shall bear a SON,” and since no one is born an adult, Jesus had to start like each and every one of us…a helpless infant. Why a “like us?” Because Jesus is ONE of us, and that is the only way to save us; “That WE might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5).
It is very important for us to understand today whose idea this is and why. 2017 is gone…2018 stands before us now as a blank slate. 365 blank pages of possibilities and change. Some of those pages will be filled with pleasant surprises and happy endings. But not all of them. As the children of God, we should expect that not everything is going to go as planned in 2018. About the one thing you can count on is the fact that you won’t be able to count on everything!
Paul, in today’s lesson, states that we are sons and heirs of God and because of that we have adoption. But also because of that fact we should expect to suffer. Paul also wrote in Romans 8, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (8:16-17). Did you catch that? As children of God we should expect to suffer in order that we too may be glorified.
And suffer you will in 2018. You will experience pain and crisis and loss and maybe even death. These are a natural result of the sin-stained world we live in. That is Satan’s idea for us…to see us suffer…in hopes that we will abandon our faith out of frustration and fear. May this never be! Granted, we may be called to suffer and bad things may happen to you in 2018. You may even be expected to be like Job and endure the loss of everything. And if that does happen…then so be it.
What I mean by that is consider the example of Peter. Can you imagine the pain and anguish that Peter must have felt after Jesus’ passion? Peter was supposed to be our Lord’s “right hand man,” the “leader” of the 12. But what did Peter do? Denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. And then Jesus died a wretched, horrible, public death. I can only imagine Peter really wondered whose idea this was at that point when he saw Jesus dead on a Roman cross.
Then, on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples that night, but John doesn’t say if Peter and Jesus had reconciled. Later, in John 21, the disciples have returned to Galilee and are fishing again. How much time has gone by? A week? A month? We don’t know. But it is at that time that Peter and Jesus are reconciled. Imagine the anguish that Peter must have felt in-between! The guilt! The anxiety! The emotional suffering! Most assuredly, Peter knows what it meant to suffer for the faith. Church tradition says that, when Peter was executed, he asked to be crucified upside-down because he wasn’t worthy to die the same way as Jesus. And it was Peter who wrote “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV).
And there you have it. We can suffer in 2018; it’s part of the plan. And when we suffer for doing good, we do so entrusting our souls to a loving, faithful, creator God who has a plan of salvation for you. Will you always understand the plan? No. Will you always be able to follow the plan? No. Will you sometimes wonder “whose idea is this anyway?” when you experience trial, trouble, and tribulation in 2018? Probably. But know that it is God’s idea that you receive adoption as His children for an eternity of privileges that come from being the loved and saved children of God.
Happy New Year everyone! Amen.