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December 31, 2010 Speaker: Pastor Braun Campbell Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 12:35–12:40

New Year’s Eve
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Luke 12:35-40


We’re never really ready.  It’s pretty much impossible for us to be perfectly prepared; we can only do so much, even if we have well-founded expectations of what’s to come.  We might do the homework and take care of all the tasks on the to-do list.  But when the time comes – especially if it comes unexpectedly – even the most thorough arrangements are only guesses at what might happen.  Earthquakes strike and level cities.  Rains pour and floods wash away homes.  Major medical problems appear and strain body, mind, and spirit.  Layoffs come and challenge finances and future plans.  How can you be ready when you don’t know what to be ready for?

It’s New Year’s Eve, and that can be pretty exciting.  All over the world, friends, family, and complete strangers get together to ring in a new year – something that people on the other side of the planet have already done for 2011.  But if you’re not in the mood for going out or having friends over, you might just be planning to have a low-key evening as you bid farewell to the closing year.  It might be so low-key, in fact, that you’ll be sound asleep in bed as the clock rings midnight!  On New Year’s Eve, if you’re not active, if you’re not excited, sleep creeps up on you.  When I was a kid, our family would get together with other friends and have a party, the adults upstairs and the rest of us downstairs.  We’d stay awake playing video games, talking, and watching the countdown shows on television.  Sit down for a couple of minutes, though, and you start… to… doze off…  As an adult, it’s pretty easy to let New Year’s Eve celebrations pass by.  Been there.  Done that.  You know what to expect.  There doesn’t really seem to be anything to get excited about this New Year’s Eve, any reason to stay awake to watch the clock tick down to 2011.  And so, sleep creeps up on you, and you ring in the new year, not with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” but with the snoring of already-long-sleeping.

As we come to the beginning of a new calendar year as Christians, this is a fitting time to consider if we’ve become complacent in our spiritual life.  Are we ready for what’s to come?  If our faith seems like a “been there, done that” thing, if we’re not active and we’re not looking ahead, then we’ve become complacent.  That’s a real problem, one that Jesus addresses through parables in our New Year’s Eve Gospel reading from Luke.  The lord is at a banquet.  His servants were assigned the task of watching for his return, even into the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning.  When the lord comes back, will his servants be ready for his arrival, or will they be asleep?

Staying awake can be pretty hard, especially if we’re not active or we’re not excited about what lies ahead.  In the same way, we can be like servants sitting still, who get drowsy in our faith and abandon our responsibilities as Christians.  When we neglect time spent in God’s word, fail to share God’s love in Jesus with our neighbor, and don’t think about our Lord’s return, we grow complacent.  Spiritual complacency, like any other, is the enemy of readiness.

Here’s a particularly significant aspect of Jesus’ message in these parables: this teaching is for Christians – not for unbelievers, and not just the inner circle of the disciples, for pastors, or for leaders in the church.  Jesus is calling all of his Church to readiness.  If God has given you faith and made you His own through baptism, you are already part of Christ’s Church.  You are indeed a saved child of God.  As Lutheran Christians, we might be especially tempted to misappropriate this gift of God’s grace as an excuse for complacency in faith, nodding off spiritually, forgetting who we are meant to be.  The Lord will return.  He could do so at any moment, especially when we Christians are least expecting him.  This year could be the last year in time.  And so, with our new identity in baptism comes the responsibility of readiness.  We are made servants, stewards of everything that God has given as we await our Lord’s return.

Hear this good news from Jesus’ parable of the waiting servants: when the Lord returns, how blessed will the servants be who stayed awake and were ready for his return, because he is the one who will come and serve his servants!  We get a glimpse of that tonight in the Lord’s Supper, looking ahead to our future when Jesus returns and unites the Church in heaven with the Church on earth.  Christians aren’t just waiting for a crystal ball to drop.  We’re not just counting down time until the clock stops ticking.  We’re expecting God Himself to show up – and that’s when the celebration really begins!

This New Year’s Eve, as we look ahead to a new year as our Lord’s servants in this time and place, God continues to provide us what we need to be ready for Jesus’ return.  He teaches us in His word.  He feeds us at His table.  His forgives our complacency and activates us for our mission as His people.

Though we might not know what to expect in life from day to day – and are never perfectly prepared for our time “under the sun” – we do know what to expect when all is said and done: our Lord is coming, and He makes us ready for the future.


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