In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus shed His blood for you! Sure, you say, over 30 years after He was born. Yes. That is true. But there is even more to ponder and treasure up in your heart.
At the tender age of one week, Joseph and the Blessed Virgin had her Child circumcised. He was keeping the Law – and shedding His blood in order to keep that Law. He was not keeping it for Himself. He did not bleed for Himself. He did it all for you. And as He suffered that brief moment, there was a foreshadowing of how someday He would suffer and bleed and die for all.
Stop and think about that. Even as a Baby, Jesus Christ keeps the Law for you, doing all that is required. And even as a baby, Jesus Christ sheds His blood for you. He takes it all upon Himself to redeem you, having His body permanently marked, to witness God’s covenant with His Church.
This was also the moment when He received His name—the most holy Name – the Name which is above every name. Jesus! The Lord saves! Imagine: every time they called out His
Name, a mini-sermon was preached – “The Lord saves!”
He has come to you at your Baptism, where He brought you forgiveness, rescue, and the promise of eternal salvation. There, you were permanently marked as His own, witnessing God’s covenant with His Church. There you too were marked with His most holy Name. Christ christened you as a Christian! Bathed in the cleansing water and blood from His pierced side, you were given your personal name and placed into Jesus!
As you look back across this past year, you will find mistakes too numerous to count, words too harsh to repeat, thoughts too vile to resurface, actions too hurtful to recall. You have not lived up to the Name placed upon you at Baptism. You have failed our Holy Redeemer.
And at this time of year, we usually hop on the bandwagon and say it is now time to make some resolutions. Promises to do better in the coming year. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But after a week or two, we find ourselves back in the same messes. Now I am not saying, “Don’t even try.” But I am saying you are a human, and a poor, miserable sinner. So when you fail – and you will – then there is only One who can make the difference: the One with a Name above every name – Jesus!
Our blessed Lord comes to you and rescues you from yourself! His body bears the marks of keeping the Law and being punished for those who have not. He forgives and removes the sin. The blood He shed washes you and makes you whiter than snow.
Tonight we thank God for all the blessings of this past year. At the same time, we look forward to the Year of Our Lord 2010, and all the blessings of body and soul that the Lord of History will bring. Our loving Father will continue to provide for you, body and soul, giving all that you truly need. The Holy Spirit will continue to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify you, keeping you in the one true faith. And our Lord Jesus continues to deliver His Body wounded and Blood shed for you, that you may receive Him again and again for your salvation.
In 2010, as always, many will continue to try to sway you from God’s Word and His Holy Sacraments. Whether by television, by tracts, or by talking, they will try to get you to trust in yourself, in some ability to choose Christ, as if you yourself can actually decide to make Him your Lord and Savior. Beware of false teachings, and stick to His Holy Gifts. The Spirit alone calls you to faith and brings you to Christ, whose Blood redeems you.
In 2010, many will try to make you afraid and uncertain as you face the future. Whether the media with their various agendas, politicians grasping for your support, or others simply preying upon you and your wallet, many want you to live in fear. But our Lord says: “Fear not!” He comes in the flesh to bear your sin and be your Savior. He removes every threat, or takes them on Himself, that you need not fear.
In 2010, you will face trials and heartaches, as always. Jesus does not simply remove suffering from your lives. But He is with you every second. He endures it all, that you are not alone. He has suffered all, that you may receive His comfort and joy. And you have His certain promise that He will bring good out of every evil that faces you.
In 2010, the devil will try to convince you that there is too much debt at St. John’s, that drastic steps must be taken in reducing staff or property. Satan thinks that is pretty funny. He wants some fear and unease. Wherever the Gospel is being proclaimed and Christ’s little lambs are being well fed, Satan is deeply disturbed. So he works very hard at getting people to fear and doubt, hoping they will give up.
Do NOT give up. Fear not! There is no denying that there are challenges. But there is also great joy in the success of the Gospel here, and a fabulous cause for which we “dig deeper” and call out to one another for financial support. And even more importantly, we call on the Name of the Lord to provide people and resources here at St. John’s to boldly proclaim His Gospel of forgiveness, through the Blood of Jesus Christ, for years to come!
The Blood of the week-old Christ was shed for you. The Blood of our grown Lord on the cross was shed for you. The same blood, filling this chalice is given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. In a matter of moments, you will have the privilege and joy of tasting and swallowing life itself, as the holy and precious Blood of Jesus, shed for you, enters you and gives you strength and hope to face the coming year.