Online Service for New Years Eve, Thursday December 31, 2020
Sermon for New Year’s Eve 2020 (2006)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
May the Triune God grant us all a blessed – 2021. Amen.
Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
In whom we stand forgiven today,
In whom we stand justified the last day,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It seems that those two greetings go together, don’t they? Yes, despite the fact that the celebration of Jesus’ birth and the dawning of a new year are separated by six short days, the two are connected – especially for us Christians.
In fact, the latter (a Happy New Year) depends upon the One whose birth we celebrate.
It would be truly difficult to celebrate a new year or look to the future with hope – if Christ had not entered the human race to live and die and rise for us. If Christ had not come – it would be truly frightening to gaze one day into the future – to say nothing of a year.
We would be – without Christ – on a crash course with the final judgment – a guilty verdict inevitable.
New Year’s Day is both and end and a beginning. It marks the end of the former year (2020) and the beginning of a new calendar year (2021).
It is a day upon which most will take the time to look back on the year that seems to have so quickly passed. It is also a day upon which many will look forward to and make plans for the coming year.
So, this evening we briefly look back on the year coming to a close.
However, I would like you to do so as if today was the last day – the final day ever to be seen by humankind.
What hopes would we have for the future? Is our hopes for the coming year based on what we have accomplished in the past year? What have we done – of value before God? Do we hope for the future because of what we have been given by God? What has God given that secures our eternal futures?
May the Spirit of God open our hearts and minds that we may remember what great things have been done for us -- to prepare us for both the coming year and for eternal life with Him. Amen.
If we look back on the year 2020 – what do we see? In some ways the year now drawing to a close was different than in years past and in others it was the same. We are often too quick to evaluate without really soberly looking back on every aspect of the past year.
So, in some ways the year 2020 was just like every other year. It was a 365-day period full of ups and downs, of what we would call good and bad.
In the past year our gracious God once again provided for all of our needs. He, in accord with His Promise in Genesis Chapter 8, continued to send the early and latter rains, enabling a bountiful harvest. Once again, He allowed powerful Hurricanes to batter our southern coastline and take homes and property.
In the past year, despite the challenges, God has blessed our congregation with the ability to gather for worship. He has moved us all to give of the things He has given us, to support the ministry He established here in Marquette. He has kept us reasonably healthy, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Shouldn’t this alone make us joyful and optimistic in our evaluation of the year drawing to a close and that which begins tomorrow?
The LORD has taken some of our fellow believers, friends and acquaintances from this world to their eternal glory…but if they believed in Christ, is this not also a reason for thanksgiving? If the death of his saints is precious in God’s sight, why not in ours (Psalm 116:15)?
In the past year - have we been completely faithful to the LORD or just nominally so?
Where has the LORD ranked on our lists of importance -- #1? Have we served Him to the best of our abilities – looking for opportunity to serve Him who gave His Son to redeem us?
The LORD has blessed us with His Word and the freedom to hear and learn it – have we taken our opportunities seriously to grow in faith?
We really don’t have to dig too deep to see our unfaithfulness, do we?
Let’s call it what it is…sin. So, what if today is the Last Day and the Lord Jesus returns with power and glory?
If today is the Last Day of earth’s current existence…
Would you despair or be hopeful?
Would you be afraid and earnestly look to do some great thing to earn God’s favor or could you be quietly content?
Well, that depends upon what you see when you evaluate the year coming to a close.
If when you look at 2020…
You see a year in which you believe you did well enough to satisfy God’s Law and think that if graded on a curve against every other human being you could stand in God’s courtroom – then you don’t see things the way they really stand.
Can we really hope for an eternal future based upon what we have done in the year past? Sure…but not an eternal future in heaven, but one in hell.
Shall I read God’s evaluation of us all ? (Romans 3:10-12):
“…it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
What, therefore have we earned in the past year? (Romans 6:23):
…the wages of sin is death…
If we look back on 2020 with any smidgen of honesty then we can see clearly that our sins have far outweighed our imagined good deeds.
Even when we have been kind and gracious to others… our perceived goodness isn’t near good enough to satisfy God’s wrath or make up for our sins.
Our kindnesses are themselves flawed, because they are produced by sinful human beings who are corrupt and self-centered.
Shall we imagine that God would be satisfied by garbage? NO.
If we take an honest look at our lives in 2020 – we will come away thinking we are like people chained in a lead box and dropped into the deepest part of the sea. Death is inevitable.
But if you look at 2020 and see your sins and the Savior Jesus Christ, then you may look to the future with hope. There is, after all, more to the passage I just quoted from Romans (6:23):
For the wages of sin is death…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have hope for the future today, tomorrow – and even on the Day of Judgment because of the gift that God long ago gave us. The sinless Infant Jesus grew up to become the sinless man Jesus who was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be our --
Prophet -- to speak words of comfort from God to us.
Priest -- to lay down His perfect sinless life as the sacrifice that placates God’s anger – and to serve forevermore as our go-between.
King – to rule all things in heaven and on earth for us, and to reign in our hearts and lives.
It is through faith in Christ Jesus, and what He has done that we can stand before God today without fear – and on that day. For we know what the future holds for us, the Scripture tells us:
Therefore, having been justified by faith. . .
We dare not forget what this means! We have been (it’s an accomplished fact) Justified in God’s sight by faith. Justified means – ‘declared not guilty.’ We know already what the Judge will say when we stand before His Throne – ‘Not Guilty!’
But…how can we be ‘justified’ -- declared not guilty – what about the last year – to say nothing of our entire lives?
We are Justified by Faith -- not by faith in a God of our choosing or by faith in certain words – but by faith in Christ Jesus. The passage we all learned as children says it all:
“God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God gave this in His Son – to you.
The war that began when Adam and Eve rebelled against God was ended by Christ, for we are not only justified by faith --
. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
It seems to me that with hostility in the world today, people are inclined to sneer at the idea of ‘peace on earth.’ Most see peace as a goal, not a reality. Now as far as peace between men and nations goes – it is a goal – one that may never really be realized.
However, when the Angels in the fields outside Bethlehem said: “. . . and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” – they were not announcing the end of wars and rumors of wars, but the end of hostility between God and man. The Prince of Peace had just been born, those innocent life and perfect sacrifice – would forge peace between God and man – once and for all. Yes, despite centuries of effort, sinful human beings could not appease God or satisfy His anger over sin. So, God sent His Son to make peace.
We have peace with God – not through human effort or ingenuity – but through God’s intervention.
Whether 2021 holds earthly joy or sorrow (from our point of view) for you and me – we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. We stand in God’s grace and have direct access to God through prayer. We can be optimistic and joyful beginning a new year in Christ.
So, what if today is the last day? Then today we stand before the throne of Christ and shall be declared ‘not guilty.’ We who have been mighty sinners in 2020 enter 2021 with a mighty Savior, who loves us and laid down His life for us.
Then to assure us that we have peace with God, He gave us His Supper – to confirm that our sins are forgiven.
How can we not begin the New Year with hope and joy?