1 Peter 1:22-25 New Year’s Eve (as we are celebrating tonight--the passing of one year into the next) is not a church festival per se-- but I do think that there is great value for the child of God in attending worship services on this occasion.
We gather together as God’s people to remind ourselves of the fleeting nature of our lives in this world (that time does indeed pass us by!) and with each passing moment, we draw closer and closer to our own passing from this world into eternity.
With that sober reminder at the forefront of our minds, we gather together to recommit our lives and our purposes and our goals in the year to come-- to that which does not pass away: God and his Word. The Bible says that:
All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass; the grass withers and the flower fall, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
Not the most flattering analogy in the world is it? That our lives in this world are no more lasting, no more enduring, than the grass of the field which is, as Jesus says, here today and tomorrow cut down and thrown into the fire.
Satan tempts us to believe that the world revolves around us. The world tells us that we need to put ourselves first and look out for our own self-interests. At the very least, we like to believe that we will make our mark on the world: that our accomplishments–our name–our place in this world will endure. But the Bible has a very different view of humanity.
James tells us that our lives are a mist that is present in the morning but is quickly dissipated by the rising sun. And here in First Peter, our lives are compared to the spring grass that is alive and green at the beginning of the summer but by the end of the season is dry and withered and dead.
We get God’s point, don’t we? Our lives, even when they are long by human standards--are almost nothing when compared to the length of human history-- to say nothing of their brevity in the light of eternity.
The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 should be a sobering reminder to each of us of this inescapable reality: that time marches on-- and for a while we march along with it. But unless the Lord comes first, there will come a new year into which we will not enter-- because our earthly lives will be no more.
That is true for us all. No matter how great or important or influential or loved we are--the Bible says: “ALL men are like grass”. Yes, there are accomplishments and there are successes while we live–there are joys and victories.
The bible says about these high points: “their GLORY is like the flowers of the field.” There ARE wonderful things that we can accomplish that enrich and beautify the lives of others around us--but just for a time.
I think about the wild-flowers of the hill country: glorious, vibrant, bursting with more colors than the rainbow each spring. It is a joy and delight to see each new variety as they flower and beautify the countryside.
And yet within just a two or three week period, they are gone again–those individual flowers never to be seen again on this earth. So it will be for our lives—and so it will be for all tht we have accomplished.
The Bible says that: “the grass withers and the flowers fall.” We must come to that hard realization (as uncomfortable as it is!), that our earthly lives as we know them now will not endure if we are to number our days aright so that we can apply our hearts to what truly matters and what will endure past this life–and that is God and his Word.
The Bible says: “The Word of the Lord remains forever.” In contrast to our fleeting, transitory lives, the Lord and his Word endure forever.
In the beginning, God spoke this world into existence by the power of the eternal Word, and by that same eternal Word the heavens and the earth are preserved—right up until he lifts his voice and this world will be no more.
Countless generations have come and gone. Billions of people have lived and died. Empires have risen and fallen. But the Word of God has endured through it all and will endure forever.
During the Christmas season we learn that, the Word of God which was in the beginning, through whom all things were created, is the second person of the Holy Trinity who took on human flesh and became man–the Incarnate Word of God. The bible says that:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, spoke the word of God throughout his earthly ministry, calling people to repent and put their trust in him. And from the rough cross of Calvary, he spoke the most important words the world has ever heard: “Father forgive them” and “It is finished”.
Jesus Christ is the final Word of God to all of humanity. On Christmas morning we heard that, in many and various ways God spoke to his people of old but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”. God has spoken words of forgiveness and peace and reconciliation and new life that has no end in His Son Jesus.
It is appropriate that we remember and take note of the passing of time. But on this New Year’s Eve it is even more important for us to remember that just because our life on this earth doesn’t endure forever, that doesn’t mean that we won’t live forever–because through faith in the Risen Christ–we will. The Bible assures us that we
“…have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, the living and abiding Word of God.”
Each and every person born of human parents, dies–it is inescapable. Adam’s sin has cursed every one of his children. The bible says that, “sin entered the world through one man and death through sin and in this way death came to all men.” Not one of us–young or old, rich or poor, male or female–is immune from the deadly effects of Adam’s sin. We will die.
Because of this, if we are to live beyond this life, if our lives are to be more than a mist that is gone with the rising of the sun or grass that is cut down from one day to the next, we must be born again. Jesus said:
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh give birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the Spirit.”
The Good News for us tonight (we who stare into the grim realities of the passing of time) is that we have been born again of an imperishable seed–a seed that cannot die–and that is the Word of God.
That Word of promise, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, has been spoken to us in Word and Sacrament—at the font and pulpit and altar.
It is this Word of Good News that has been preached in Christian churches week after week since the time of the apostles that–that has been given with the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion–that gives new life again and again–a life that has no end.
And because this is who we are, born again believers through Spirit-worked faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we approach the new year with confidence and joy–knowing that each day is a day to live for God’s glory until that day we enter into his glory.
Because this is who we are, we have a different set of priorities and goals and resolutions for the new year, and for the rest of our life, than the sinful world around us. The Bible says that:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Let the world around us resolve to: lose weight–to get the upper hand on their finances– to get organized. Let our resolve as the people of God be to love one another more and more–to obey God’s Word-- and to keep ourselves unstained by the world.
Countless millions around us at this very moment lives in fear and dread at the passing of time. They attempt to cover that fear with a foolish facade of substance abuse and sensuality, but make no mistake about it, it is always there–this fear and dread at the passing of time.
For us who are born again into a living faith in Christ, that fear has been removed. We don’t have to worry about what the future holds because we know who holds the future. We don’t have to worry about getting ahead, about having more this new year than last year, about achieving greater and greater heights in our career.
Instead, our lives as God’s people are focused on things eternal: caring for one another in loving ways–submitting our lives in obedience to God’s direction–and drawing ever closer to the One with whom we will spend eternity. God grant us this life in the year to come and eternal life in the end! Amen.