In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Tonight we eat our Passover. Tonight, as the earth begins its slow rotation around the sun once more, its 2,015th according to the common dating of our Lord’s birth; as we remember both the joy and the sorrow of the past year; as we confess our sins and rejoice in the forgiveness granted freely to us by our Savior’s death and resurrection—tonight we stand, as always, at the world’s last night. Tonight we stand with our belts tight around our waists, our cloaks tucked in, our shoes on our feet, and our staffs in our hands. We eat our Passover with the hurried intention of people who know that our deliverance is near. We eat as people who know that this world has nothing to hold us. We eat knowing that the Passover of the Lord means both judgment and salvation. And so we keep watch, at the end of one year and the beginning of another; we keep watch, knowing that our Lord may return to gather us at any time. But He will not come in such a way that we will be alarmed; He will come suddenly, like a thief in the night, but we do not fear His coming. We are prepared—though that, by itself, is no small miracle. Think back over the past year. Review in your mind the progress you have made toward being more patient and slower to anger; has the corruption in you decreased so that you daily become gentler and humbler? How clean a break have you made from greed, hatred, envy, pride, or whatever sin holds you the tightest? Have you made every effort to pray without ceasing? Have you read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested the Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation because they testify to the Word made flesh? Are you more prepared this year for Jesus to knock on your door? If those were our resolutions, how dismal would the failure rate be? That, of course, assumes that we even thought about any of those things. We make resolutions about family, or weight, or money, or some other thing, but none of those things, even if kept, will make you ready for the coming of the Son of Man. None of those things will keep the judgment of God from falling on your house.
Only blood can do that. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. If the blood of the Lamb does not mark your door, then your life will be required of you. On all your gods, Yahweh will execute judgment. But don’t try to hide under the blood of any of your own sacrifices. There is only one all-sufficient sacrifice; one sacrifice that hides you; one Lamb, whose blood takes away the sin of the world; one baptism by which we escape slavery and all our enemies are drowned; one Passover Meal that can prepare us for the Feast that is still to come. Tonight we gather in this place, and the blood He shed already as an infant marks the lintel and the doorposts; tonight, we keep vigil as the Lord descends to us, not in rightly deserved condemnation and death, but to pass over us in mercy; tonight, He comes and knocks on the door of this house, and we welcome Him with joy, just as we will on that final day. Even tonight, in this greatest mystery of our Faith, He does not come to be served, but He seats us in the best places around the table, and He serves us the sacrifice that means life to us. He, the Firstborn from eternity of the Father, and the Firstborn in time of the Virgin, was put to death in place of both enslavers and enslaved, oppressors and oppressed, rich and poor, old and young. He willingly submitted to the Father’s will and judgment, and the Father raised Him from the dead. 8 days after His birth, He began the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel, even with the blood of His infant flesh.
So tonight we eat the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover. We eat it on the way to the Land of Promise, as we await the trumpet and the shout of victory. We who open the door wide to Him tonight will surely open the door wide to Him on that last night. As we gather this year and every year around the Passover meal of Jesus, we hear His Word to us and we pray that Word back to the Father through Him. He holds His promises tight around us, no matter what this year may bring. And we know, even as we struggle against sin and strive for holiness, that our entire preparation for Jesus’ coming consists of this: He has written His Name on us in the shape of a cross and He continually feeds us His body and blood; as often as we eat this meal, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Indeed, blessed are you; your Lord and God abides with you at the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of your life, and at the end of the world.
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, 12/29/14