As we squeeze out the last moments of this calendar year I hope and pray you are surrounded by the love of family and friends.
I pray, too, that you know the depth and surety of the love God has for you.
May you have a blessed 2009.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
The words of our appointed epistle lesson for this coming Sunday from the church are so deep and rich and powerful. Feel free to read them again and linger over them.
The words above are even more powerful yet when you realize that we are not the subjects of the verbs. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in bringing to bear on our lives the good news of the gospel. We are the recipients of God’s amazing and pervasive grace.
The only thing that we do in the words above is hear the word of truth and believe in him.
And even that is not of our own doing as Martin Luther so clearly states in the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism:
I believe I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.
In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian church day after day he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day he will raise me and all the dead and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life.
This is most certainly true.
Go ahead and read those words again about all the good things that God is bringing to pass in your life.
It is not about your will or your strength of resolve or your resolutions. It is not about how hard you are going to try or what you will take up or put down in this coming year.
It is about our God who has blessed us beyond comprehension through grace. It is about a sure and certain hope that God has given to us. It is about what Jesus has done. It is about what God will still do as a result of Jesus’ work. It is about what God has done for us and it is about those God would use us to tell.
God, thank you for the blessings of this past year. Thank you for the blessings of this coming year. Thank you, most of all, for Jesus. Draw us into him even more deeply in the days ahead. Amen.