First Sunday after Christmas – January 1, 2017
Isaiah 63:7-9 – Pastor Don Ninmer
I will tell about the Lord’s mercies, about the praises of the Lord, about all that the Lord has done for us, about His great goodness to the house of Israel, which He did for them according to His abundant compassion, and according to His great mercy. He said: “Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely,” so He became their Savior. In all their anguish He had anguish, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He Himself redeemed them, and He took them up and carried them all the days of old.”
Today is a special year in our church calendar. It is actually kind of a triple header. It is of course New Year Day, January 1, 2017. Today we enter a new year, not knowing what will lay in store for us, but knowing that we have the promises of our faithful God. If we live throughout the year, He will be there beside us all of the way. If we die believing in Jesus, He will be there to carry us into eternal life with Him in heaven. What a comfort it is, knowing that whatever the new year brings, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. We remember the words of Paul, a beautiful confession of faith: If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Today is also the Sunday after Christmas. We think about the message of Christmas that we heard last Sunday, Christmas Day: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. We all are reminded again that today, the Sunday after Christmas, after all the food has been eaten and the gifts unwrapped, the lasting and enduring Christmas present is that one which was given to us by the Heavenly Father, He is Christ the Lord.
We remember that today is also the 8th day of Christmas. We recall the words of Luke: On the eighth day, when it was the time to circumcise Him, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived. (Luke 2:21) This is important for us because it was in the Rite of Circumcision that His blood was first shed for us on this earth.
That blood was again shed for us on the cross. We remember the words of Paul: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8) While we rejoice at His coming, we are sad because it meant the shedding of His holy blood.
All of this is seen in the words of our text. Listen to the words of Isaiah: I will tell about the Lord’s mercies, about the praises of the Lord, about all that the Lord has done for us, about His great goodness to the house of Israel. It is almost as if that Isaiah here had so much to say that he could hardly get it all in.
As parents or grandparents we can appreciate that. When my three grandchildren were young and when they came to stay with us, there were times that they were all talking at once, or they were all asking for something, or they had so much to say about school and their Birthday party that they could hardly get it all in. Sometimes I had to say: Hold it! I can only hear one of you at a time. Or, I can only do 14 things at a time.
Here Isaiah has such wonderful things to say that he can hardly get them all in. He says: I will tell about the Lord’s mercies, about the praises of the Lord, about all that the Lord has done for us, about His great goodness, what He did, according to His great mercy. Isaiah wants the people of Israel to remember how the Lord had been good to them and blessed them. They should look at the history of Israel and see all that the Lord had done for them and their people.
That is what we do today. As we end one year and begin another we remember all that our gracious Lord did for us in 1016. Did we have some difficult days? Most of us say, Yes. Did we or a loved one have some sickness or bodily affliction? In one degree or another we all say, yes. Did the Lord call one of our loved ones out of this world? Some of us say, Yes. Was there some turmoil or uncertainty in the world? We all respond, Yes.
But today we put that aside. Because today we are all like the grandchildren. We are going to our Lord to remember everything that He did for us. We are going to Him to thank Him for His great goodness and His great mercy. As we go, we confess that we do not deserve any of these blessings. What is good about God, unlike an earthly grandparent, He hears us all and is happy to hear our words of thanks.
As we begin a new year, how happy we are to hear the assurance that Isaiah brings when he also says of us: Surely they are my people. He tells us why He can say that: So he became their Savior. In all their anguish He had anguish, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He Himself redeemed them. Who do you think Isaiah is talking about when he says: He became their Savior – the Angel of His Presence saved them – He Himself redeemed them?
It is pretty obvious to us: Isaiah may be talking about deliverance that God brought to His Old Testament people. He may be talking about an angel who led the people in battle or to freedom. But is clear that he is also talking about the Savior. That was His mission – to become our Savior, to save us and redeem us. To do that He had to come here and live here and shed His blood here!
We also rejoice in the promise that Isaiah brings at the end of our text: And He took them up and carried them all the days of old. What He did in days of old He will do for us in 2017. He will take us up in His arms and carry us. He will bless us with the things that He knows are best for us. Above all He will bless us with forgiveness and His promise of salvation. When we read the words of Isaiah, we can truly say, Happy New Year because the Lord will take us up in his arms and carry us through the year or to eternal life.
We treasure these special words of Isaiah: In His love and in His pity He Himself redeemed them and He took them up and carried them all the days of old. With that knowledge we can all say: Happy New Year!!