Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Three Things to Keep in Mind as the New Year Begins” based on Hebrews 1:1-6 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, December 31, 2017
Telephone. That’s the name of the game people have played while sitting around campfires or attending youth-group ice-breakers. Multiple people stand in a line or in a circle. A short phrase is whispered to the first person, who in turn whispers the phrase to the next…and so on and so forth…until the message reaches the final person. By that time, having been passed along and repeated multiple times, the final message is usually altered, hardy resembling the original.
The message God gives us in the Bible…the message about Jesus…is nothing like that. Instead, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.”
God spoke through his prophet Moses, and in very general terms promises a coming Savior. But as the centuries went on, God would give more details to his prophets. To Micah, God supplies the birthplace – Bethlehem. To Ezekiel, God tells how this Savior will shepherd and love his people. To David in Psalm 22 and to Isaiah in chapter 53 the Lord gives very detailed descriptions of how this coming Savior will suffer and die and pay for sin.
What we read about and know about this Savior Jesus is not an ever-evolving story with ever-changing details, like some century-upon-century-old game of telephone…these are the very true and detailed words of God. There’s nothing like it in all of human history.
Michael Grant is an author of a book about Constantine the Great. As we wrote, he struggled to get to the true story about this Roman Emperor. He knew he couldn’t trust the anti-Christian historians – they have nothing good to say about Constantine. And he couldn’t fully trust the Christian historians – they have nothing bad to say about him. And so, as other writers have done with so many other historical figures, Michael Grant tried to sort through all the slants and spins of past historians…and in the end, we may never really know who the real Constantine was. Again, nothing like the Jesus we see in the Bible. Moses, Ezekiel, David, and Isaiah were not slanted historians putting spin on their reports. They were mouthpieces and scribes for God himself. What you read about Jesus in the Bible is factual. That’s the first thing to keep in mind as a new year begins. You have so many other unknowns around the 2018 corner…whether or not the Gospel of Jesus is true or trustworthy – not one of them. You know the real Jesus. You have the real and true words of God himself.
Here’s something else to keep in mind as the new year begins…as days and months are laid out…what will life bring?…what neat surprises await me?…what unwanted challenges are waiting to leap out at me? Keep this in mind, whatever comes your way, you have a fantastic Savior.
If you take a look back at some of the blockbuster movies that have hit the big screen over the past 6 years, a very large percentage of them have something in common. Can you guess what it is? The majority of those hit movies featured superheroes or characters who had superhuman abilities and powers. People are intrigued…maybe even drawn to characters that are more capable than themselves…that are able to confront and conquer problems that would otherwise floor the average person. Having a superhero as your next-door neighbor wouldn’t be all bad.
But you have something better…you have a Savior who is fantastic…not filmmaker-fantastic, in that he can leap tall building in a single bound…but truly life-and-death-and-eternal life fantastic! Just take a listen to these verses again. Who owns and carries the entire universe? Who single-handedly paid for sin? Who rose from the dead and now rules over all things? but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory…sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Do you think during these next 12 months
- Will there be any times you’ll want to fold your hands in prayer and ask for his help or understanding or patience? – who better to help than the One who sits at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
- You’ll need assurance that your sins have been paid for? – who better to assure than the One who paid the debt.
- You’ll have sickness ad maybe even death knock on your door or that of a family member? – who better to sit by you in the hospital or walk with you to the cemetery than the One who has been there before…he knows how badly it hurts and he also knows how badly he defeated death and he also knows how wonderful the heaven is that awaits.
- Having a fantastic Savior is much better than having a superhero for a neighbor. It’s also more realistic.
The words of our Lord are factual. The Savior he’s given us is fantastic. The good news is familiar. That’s the third thing to keep in mind: the good news about Jesus is familiar.
When you celebrated Christmas this year, it wasn’t the first time, was it? You’ve heard the Christmas Gospel before and you’ve sung the Christmas carols. This is all very familiar to us…not in a boring way…but in a beautiful way. You know where to find Jesus, your Savior.
- He’s in the Word…waiting for you to turn the pages and learn even more about his love and forgiveness.
- He’s in Holy Communion…waiting for you to bring your heavy hearts so he can make your burden light.
- He’s in Baptism…
There will be plenty of unfamiliar roads you’ll have to navigate through in 2018…maybe some problems you’ll have to solve…some answers you’ll have to search for…but you won’t have to search for Jesus. He’s familiar…he’s right there for you…He’s right there with his factual and fantastic and familiar gospel. And he wants more