In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord says, get ready to go. At the close of the day, at the close of the year, at the close of your life. Watch, and wait, tonight on the verge of 2013 as on the verge of this creation’s end. He has prepared the eternal wedding Feast by His death and resurrection, and He will not fail to gather you for that Feast. Get ready to go, He says. That is, don’t just hang around the house in your bathrobe and slippers. You can’t go out like that. Get dressed, light the lamp, put your walking stick next to the door. Tie your robe around your waist, so you don’t trip over it. You may be leaving tonight. How blessed is the one who is ready when the Lord returns to bring His own into the Feast!
Tonight we eat the Passover of our Lord, in this season of celebration because of His birth. Tonight as we look forward to the new year, as we look forward to our Lord’s return, we also look back to the marking of the covenantal sacrifice. Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate our Lord’s circumcision, the mark of the old covenant. In Israel, if you were an uncircumcised male, you were cut off from the Lord’s salvation. You were not part of Yahweh’s people; you might as well have been an unbeliever. And so on the eighth day after His birth, our Lord was Himself circumised. He marked the end and fulfillment of the old covenant with the shedding of His blood, just as He would mark and bring the fullness of the new covenant with the shedding of His blood. His blood marks you, and you remember it every time you enter this House in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God,who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). You have entered the new covenant with baptism, and now you eat the new covenant Meal. The Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the festival! “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand” (Exodus 12:11). Ready to go, like the people of Israel being hastened to their salvation from slavery in the land of Egypt. The Lord was coming, and this quickly eaten feast would become the sign of the coming feast in the Land of Promise. So it is for us: as our Lord has prepared a feast of His Body and Blood, it is a sign for us of the coming feast in our Land of Promise, the new creation. And He has kept His word: “Truly, I say to you, [the Lord for whom you wait] will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37). He has dressed Himself for service in skin and bone and muscle and blood, body and soul. He has wrapped Himself in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin; He condemned your sin in His flesh. This Lord, whom we should rightly serve as unworthy beggars, comes to serve us! He knocks at the door of this altar, and we are ready, sinners though we are. We are ready because He has called us according to His own holy purpose in His own Son. He knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb, even before the foundation of this world, and He predestined you to be shaped and formed into the image of His Son. God is for you, not against you! He did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all! Who are we, but slaves in a great house? But He says to His slaves: here, take your place at My table! Take My place, the Son’s place, at the table. Here, eat and drink! Would you like some more of My mercy? Would you like another cup of My life? Would you like another plate of peace? Here! Eat and drink tonight!
But do not mistake this meal on the way for the Feast that is coming! This is but the first course, the hors d’oeuvres of the wedding feast that never ends. We are ready, but we still wait eagerly for our sonship, the redemption of our bodies. We are still foreigners and strangers in this land, but no one can bring any charge against us; God has justified us in His Son. No one can condemn us and nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Even if we die, we live. We still watch for the day when our table prayer will be answered in all its fullness: Come, Lord Jesus. Here, our divine Guest serves us, and reminds us once more that He will not fail to do what He said; that He is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He always comes at just the right time; in the fullness of time He entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin, and in the fullness of time, He will come to the rest of His blessed ones, and lead us in the joyful procession into the wedding hall, bought and paid for by His own blood and death. Watch and wait beloved. You do not know when the Son of Man will come, but you do know that whether this new year will mean life or death, mourning or rejoicing, sickness or health, plenty or want, nothing in all this whole creation can separate you from Him who is the firstborn from the dead. He is but the first among many: in Him, the Holy Spirit has called, justified, and glorified you. So come and eat, ready to go.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/26/12