New Year’s Eve
December 31, 2017
It’s 2018— Are You Ready?
“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. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It’s time— are you ready? Take a moment to think about all the situations where those words apply. If someone is getting ready to leave on a trip, the time will come when you might say to them, “It’s time— are you ready?” If someone is graduating from high school or going off to college you might give them a hug and say, “It’s time— are you ready?” If someone is preparing to go into court or to go into surgery, if the curtain starts to open on stage or if the chimes signal that the wedding service is about to begin you might turn to someone and say, “It’s time— are you ready?” When we stop to think about it, my friends, there are any number of situations where it would be very appropriate for us to say to someone, “It’s time— are you ready?”
Today is one of those situations. In just a matter of hours the 2017 calendar that has been hanging on our wall for the past year will be obsolete. In just a matter of hours we will have to get used to writing a brand new year every time we fill out a check. In just a matter of hours we will enter into a brand new and completely unknown chapter in our lives. Are you ready?
Today as we gather here in God’s house on the morning of this New Year’s Eve let’s see how this portion of Luke’s Gospel gives us the opportunity to look into a mirror and say: It’s 2018— Are you Ready? There are two questions we need to address this morning, two questions that will help us to determine whether or not we are ready for the New Year. The first question is— why? Why do we need to be ready? The second question is— what? What does it mean to be ready?
Why do we need to be ready? Let’s see how our text answers that question. The picture that Jesus paints for us here in Luke chapter 12 centers on a very common event in the lives of the people who first heard these words. In the Jewish culture of this day and age a marriage ceremony consisted of two parts. When a man and a woman decided to get married they would first speak their vows to each other in the presence of witnesses. Even though they did not yet begin living together as husband and wife, everyone now considered them to be a married couple. Later, perhaps several months later, the groom would go to the home of his bride’s parents where there would be a glorious wedding celebration. After the celebration was over, then the groom would bring his bride home and now they would begin living together as husband and wife.
That is the backdrop against which Jesus speaks the opening verses of our text. He says, “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.” Even though the master’s servants did not know when their master would return home with his bride, they did know two things: 1) Their master would indeed return; and, 2) They wanted to be ready for his return— no matter when it took place!
How does that common yet ancient event apply to us prepare to enter into a brand new year? How does that picture answer the question— Why do we need to be ready? It’s not difficult to connect the dots here, is it my friends!
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ has “gone away.” After He suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins, after He physically rose from the dead to proclaim His victory over sin, death and the devil Jesus ascended home to heaven. Before He ascended into heaven, however, Jesus gave to us, His children, a promise. He promised that one day He will come back for us! Will Jesus fulfill this promise? He most certainly will! Not only does Jesus fulfill this promise every time one of His children dies and their soul is welcomed into the glory of the heavenly Father’s home, but ultimately Jesus will fulfill this promise once and for all when He turns to this earth at the end of the age. Do we know exactly when Jesus will fulfill this promise and come back for us? No, we do not! But we do know those two things: 1) We know that He is coming back for us; and, 2) We know that we want to be ready for His return— no matter when it takes place!
That makes it pretty simple for us to answer our first question for today— Why do we need to be ready? The year 2018 could be the year that Jesus calls you home to heaven. Are you ready? The year 2018 could be the year that this world as we know it will be destroyed by fire and the children of God will inherit a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Are you ready?
As we prepare t enter into this New Year now is a very good time for us to examine our hearts to see if we are indeed ready for Jesus to fulfill His promise to us. Now is a very good time for us to examine the way that we are living our life to see if we are ready for either our own death or for Judgment Day to arrive. Now is a very good time for us to look into a mirror and ask, “Are you ready?” That thought then leads us to our second question for tonight— What does it mean to be ready?
Again, Jesus answers that question by referring to something which was very familiar to the people who first heard Him speak these words of our text. Our Savior says, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” I see three things here that help us understand what it means to be ready for Jesus’ return.
First, Jesus says to His disciples, “Be dressed ready for service.” As we said a moment ago, the servants did not know when their master would return from the wedding celebration. Did that mean that they could put on their night clothes, sit back and take the rest of the day off? Not at all. Jesus Himself says that they needed to “Be dressed ready for service.”
The same holds true for us, my friends. Just because our Lord and Master is “away,” that does not mean that we can sit back, take it easy, do whatever we want and live our life whoever we choose. Being ready for Jesus’ return includes being “dressed ready for service.” What kind of “service” are we to be about doing until Jesus returns for us? Scripture answers that question quite clearly!
“Being dressed ready for service” means that like the Thessalonian Christians we are to turn away from the idols of this world and actively “serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). “Being dressed ready for service” means that we follow the encouragement of the apostle Peter when he says to us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). Yes, my friends, we are to see the year 2018 as a year in which we strive to always be “dressed ready for service”— both “service” to our God as well as “service” to each other. Are you ready— ready to “serve”?
Secondly, Jesus reminds us that being ready for His return means that we are to “keep your lamps burning.” These words automatically remind me of what Jesus says to us in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Part of being ready for Jesus’ return it to make sure that we are letting the “light” of our faith shine brightly for others to see! In order for that to happen, our faith needs to be nourished. The only way for our faith to be nourished is through regular use of God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacrament.
This means that the year 2018 needs to be a year when we are in church on a regular basis, when we receive Holy Communion on a regular basis, when we come to Bible class and bring our children to Sunday school on a regular basis. Are you ready, my friends? Are you ready to make sure that the year 2018 is indeed a year in which you follow your Lord’s encouragement to “keep your lamps burning”?
Finally, part of being ready for the day of our death, part of being ready for the Christ-Child’s return to this earth is found in verses 37 and 40 of our text. Jesus says, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes…You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Picture the face of someone that you love dearly, but have not seen for a very long time— a child, a grandchild, a very dear friend. Now imagine that when you get home from church today that person calls you on the telephone and says that they are going to stop by and visit you sometime on Saturday. Would you immediately start making sure that everything was ready for their visit or would you say to yourself that you have plenty of time to get things ready so why start now? When Saturday arrived would you anxiously look out the window every time you heard a car or would you just sit and watch television and wait for them to ring the doorbell?
Part of being ready for Jesus’ return is remaining spiritually alert. We know that Jesus will most certainly come back for us, we just don’t know exactly when. Therefore we need to make sure that we don’t allow ourselves to get distracted by the things of this world. We need to make sure that we don’t say to ourselves, “I have plenty of time to get ready to meet Jesus— later.” We need to make sure that no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, no matter who we are with; we are both ready for Jesus’ return as well as watching for Jesus’ return.
It’s time— are you ready? When we stop to think about it there are any number of situations where it would be very appropriate for us to speak those words— including today. As we gather around here in God’s house on the day that we are preparing to enter into a brand New Year, let’s remember that now is indeed a very appropriate time for us to look into the mirror and say, “It’s 2018— are you ready?”
To God be the glory!