Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. --Romans 8:34-35, 38-39
The Christmas season is too short. In the world, it seems as if there’s an entire month of build-up…followed by a sudden and abrupt end of Christmas and turn toward New Years.
I recall having the radio on in the background of the house from Thanksgiving on and hearing Christmas song after Christmas song after Christmas song. As Christmas day came and presents were opened and relatives were visited, and exhausted children went to sleep, I sat alone in our living room, drinking a beer and listening to the familiar Christmas songs. Suddenly, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was abruptly ended mid-song and a song from the 90s band Matchbox 20 began playing. It was exactly 12:00 AM on December 26th. Christmas suddenly ended and the lack of Christmas music on the radio made that clear.
Advent and Christmas are comforting in their predictability. You know how things are going to unfold—the virgin Mary will be with child again. Joseph will again consider calling off the marriage until the angel, Gabriel, tells him to take Mary as his wife. They will again travel to Bethlehem. Again, there will be no room in the inn. Again, shepherds will be out in the field watching their flock by night when the angel appears and they are afraid. We will again sing Joy to the World and O Come, All Ye Faithful.
New Years is much different. New Year’s Eve carries with it unmeasurable uncertainty. We look back at all life’s twists and turns that happened to us during the course of the year and marvel at what we experienced. We are reminded of the celebrities who died during the course of the year and we are surprised all over again. We see footage of the year’s major news stories and wonder how these things could ever have been predicted.
Then, we look toward an uncertain future. What joys will we have? What will be the cause of this year’s tears? Who will we meet and who will we say goodbye to for the final time? What news stories will delight us or terrify us? We cannot possibly know.
And yet, one thing remains for certain. We cannot be separated from the love of God in Jesus, our Lord. Jesus’ forgiving love remains more powerful than loss or COVID or war. Jesus’ forgiveness is greater than our most horrible sin. Jesus’ life is greater than death. Jesus’ victory is greater than our most-humiliatng defeat. Jesus will never stop loving you, Jesus will never stop forgiving you, and Jesus will never, ever abandon you…come what may.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we know that Jesus is already there in his grace. Amen.
Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen