Thursday, December 31, 2020
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks, they can immediately open the door for him.
Underneath all the noise, the parties, and the celebrations that mark end of one year and the beginning of a new year, there is, for those who can hear it, a note of melancholy, or even a bit of sorrow. The year 2020 has ended. And we’re missing our friends and loved one who’ve been taken home and are now walking with God. I’ve even heard it said this way, “The stream has carried them away, beyond the bend.” And all of us gathered here tonight, know how fast the stream flows. We’re also in the stream and it carries us along. But where does it take us? What kind of place is it taking us to? What faraway place? The older we grow, the more we think about that. It’s not an accident that we all seem to have the same sensation that the older we get, the faster the stream seems to be moving us along.
New Year’s Eve is the time when we’re confronted with the problem of time. Time is something that we, as humans, have to deal with. We hear things like, “time is money, time is short, or you’re wasting time.” The Bible tells us that we’ll go the way of the world when we die, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, but that means we’re destined to die which in turn gives us a feeling of despair. This kind of despair may be hidden or underlying the endless partying. This is the only option for those who are convinced that the stream doesn’t go anywhere or that it carries us along until we go under, either by old age, tragic accident or medical tragedy. We’ll all die, and it’s pointless to try to think of death as anything else than what it is, or to cover it up and make it somehow seem natural. It’s not natural. We know that, because our Savior told us, and He tells us the truth.
When we look at death as a goal and that a stream carries us away, we are lead into despair, because there isn’t any hope. It’s that kind of thinking that makes us say, “What would be the point or purpose of anything in life?” Life would then be meaningless. If we listen to the festivities tonight, we’ll hear, underneath all of the wild and out of control cries, those who think that this is it, that nothing else matters. So, they celebrate in defiance, they say the words we’ve heard before, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
But tonight’s reading from Luke offers the joy only Christ can give us. Oh, it doesn’t get us out of the stream. The stream flows on because it’s God's will, and there’s no use fighting it. We’re born; we grow old; we die. But it’s what we believe about what comes after we die is what determines how we live. Jesus said, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks, they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. Christ will dress Himself to serve and have us recline at the table and He will wait on us.”
Jesus tells us what’s at the end of the stream and where it’s taking us. It’s a gift beyond our imagination! A feast, a royal feast! And we’ve spent our lives watching, looking for, looking forward to His return and the feast; we’re going to be the guests of honor, served by Jesus Himself.
We live our lives differently than those who don’t know Jesus and who don’t know the gift that He’s promised. They’ll probably start the new year with resolutions of how they’ll make the misery in their lives go away by what they do or don’t do.
But not us. If we make any resolutions this year, they should be that we’ll be more watchful; that we’ll think more about the joy that waits for us because of what Christ has done for us by His suffering and death on the cross and guaranteed to us by His rising from the dead.
We live our lives based on the fact that we know where we’re going. The stream carries us all on. But not everyone knows where the stream takes them. For some, that place is so horrible that it’s unthinkable. They’re the ones who don’t have time for the gift Jesus gave us by dying and winning eternal life for us and He lives to give it to us. They’re too preoccupied with the world around them, even as they see life falling away and they know they’re powerless to stop it or hold on to it. “This world is passing away.” We know where we’re going. Jesus told us. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you”. Yes, and in that house is the King’s table. We’re going to that banquet hall, and there’s a place for us at that table. We, who believed in Him, have a place reserved especially for us from before the foundations of this world were laid.
And we live as those who want to be there. This world and all that’s in it can’t satisfy our hearts, or our hungry soul. The longer that a Christian lives in this world of sorrow and heartache, the more they’re probably going to cry out like Paul. I couldn’t tell you how many times a person has said to me these words; “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far”. As they get older that cry gets louder because they see so many of their friends, family and neighbors being carried downstream and have reached the banquet already. They’re home; we’re on the way.
We live watching for the coming of the Lord. Death may come at any moment and carry us to eternal life; we know the greatest joy of all will be when Jesus Himself returns and the stream ends right in front of the throne of the Father and the Lamb. And so, we’re always looking up. In what we say and do, let’s not forget that the stream isn’t infinite. It runs out, and it runs out at the feet of the crucified and risen Lord.
Finally, we must live with our lamps lit, our lamp of faith, fueled by the Spirit. We stay close to the Master’s table, eating the food He’s provided us with His body and His blood. Tonight, we can and will eat and drink what He gave us so that we might belong to Him forever, so that death won’t have the power to separate us from His love. While we wait, this food gives us the strength to make it to the shore. And in this meal tonight we get a foretaste of that moment. For here on this table Jesus has given Himself and serves us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen our faith.
“Be ready,” says our Savior and Lord. We as His people, leave one year and walk into the next, and we cry out to him: “O Lord, you alone can make us ready. Help us to fix our eyes on You in this new year, on the hope that You have laid before us in heaven, on the blessings You continue to serve us in Your church.