Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A blessed New Year to all in the name of Jesus!
We begin with a word from God about Time.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Eccl 3:1–8)
What is Time? The dictionary says it is the interval, or period, between two events, or the period during which something happens. We measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, years, and so on.
But then the dictionary goes on to add: time capsule, time consuming, time deposit, time discount, time exposure, time honored, time immemorial, time keeper, time lapse, timeless, time limit, time loan, time lock, timely, time out, time piece, timer, time saving, time server, time sharing, time sheet, time signature, time study, time table, time tested, time warp, time work, time worn, and last but not least, time zone.
We worry whether or not there will be enough time. Just as this year is coming to an end, so our time on this earth comes to an end. How much time do you have? None of us knows. Whether by death or by Jesus’ return, our time is limited.
As we ponder this, we Christians have opportunity to share our faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all Time. The Bible calls him the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the One who holds all Time in his hands.
That’s because Time itself is created by God. So each of us is created by God in time. Indeed, we cannot think without thinking about time. Time moves in one direction; we cannot go back. It’s going forward whether we’re ready for it or not. That is God’s doing too. At the very beginning of time, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. . .. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day” (Gen 1:3–5). Time.
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen 1:14).
Time. It is part of God’s good creation, for our benefit. And that’s something for which we give thanks to God this New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve, the end of the year. We are reminded that all of us are on a journey through time that will come to an end. Some will arrive there sooner than others, but we are all on the same road, traveling in the same direction, and going to the same destination. New Year’s Eve reminds us to focus on that end and live in preparedness for that day when time will come to an end for us. It reminds us to spend our time here by clinging to Christ in word and sacrament so that on that last day we will be found holy and spotless in Christ, and that the real reason we are here for now is not to amass material goods or fortunes; not to be happy or successful or popular or to find pleasure, but to subordinate ourselves and put the needs of others first, to love our neighbor, and give our life in service to our fellow man. To make these things the focus of our life this coming year would be a good New Year’s Resolution.
As the Bible talks about it, however, there are actually two different kinds of time. Of course, there is the period that is measured by hours and days and years. But there is also (and this is more important in God’s way of thinking) the time that is Now, the time that is just the right Time for what God intends to do.
That’s the sense in which our text from Ecclesiastes is written. There is a time for every purpose, a proper time, a right time. We are not always in control of that, but we need to recognize what the right time is—that all times are in God’s hands.
Think of what goes into preparing for a special time for your family. You mark the date, make all the preparations, and then, suddenly, now, Now is the Time!
Children often have a hard time with this. It seems you’re always waiting—waiting for Christmas, waiting for grandparents to come, waiting for your birthday, waiting for your driver’s license. And then, ready or not, it’s Now, now is the Time.
That’s the sense in which I want you to hear our second Scripture text for today from Galatians 4. It will help us understand how God uses time for us. How God’s lordship of time can also increase our faith in him.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal 4:4–7)
The key phrase here is “When the fullness of time had come.” In other words, at the time appointed by God before the creation. The correct time in God’s timetable. The correct time for God’s purpose. When it was the correct time for our Salvation, God sent his Son. Sent him into our Time.
Notice how much God’s Son is like us. He has a birthday, which we just celebrated. He is born to be one of us, to be fully human, to be under the Law for us, in order to redeem us, to make us his own.
The passage explains it in terms of family. Because God did everything for us and for our salvation in Jesus, now we who believe in him are adopted into the family. We possess the inheritance. We have the Spirit of his Son in our hearts. We can call God our Father, and there is stored up for us the inheritance of eternal life.
And as God talks about it, this blessing is something we have even Now.
We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 6:1–2 RSV)
Now is the day of salvation. And this “Now” is both a warning and a blessing.
It’s a warning if you are putting off for some future time anything that has to do with your relationship to God. I can study the Word later. I can repent later. I can apologize to him later. I can always believe later.
No, Now is the time. You do not know how much time you have left. We’ve all seen how quickly life on this earth can come to an unexpected end. That’s why Scripture says, “Now is the Time.”
Don’t put it off.
But when you are sorry for your sins, when you do repent, when you do come to the Lord in prayer, when you do hear his Word and trust in him, worship him, desire to serve him, here is the blessing: he does not put you off, ever. He is there for you, right Now.
Everything God has done for you, he brings to you Now, here in his Word. Here in his body and blood. God doesn’t wait and say, “I’m going to make him wonder and suffer for a while, asking, ‘Will God turn to me in love, or not?’?” No! God comes Now, comes in Jesus with all his promises.
Here’s where the truth that God is the Creator of Time is also such a blessing and comfort for us. Everything God does for our salvation in Jesus is done. It’s done already. It’s finished. When we say the creed together—I believe in Jesus Christ . . . conceived, born, suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, descended into hell, rose again, ascended into heaven—do you notice all those things are past? They are done, finished.
Remember that God is the Creator of Time.
Remember also that Time goes in one way: forward.
In some movies, people invent ways to go back in time. How many movie plots employ this device? But I’m thankful that can’t be done in reality. You see, the devil would love to go back and change the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. He would love to convince you and me that it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t for us. But he can’t, because it’s done. It’s all finished in Jesus Christ!
And God brings all that to us Now!
And that, by the way, is how we can go into the future with confidence. Calling God our Father, knowing Jesus is our brother, living by the Holy Spirit’s power, members of the family, confident of our inheritance.
Oh, we know we’re not yet there. We still live in a world of sin and death. We do not yet fully enjoy the eternal life that Jesus gives us, but it is sure and certain, because it rests on his promises. Rests on what he has done.
Listen to another passage of Scripture:
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Pet 1:20–25)
God looks at you and sees you in Jesus, already there.
This world, with all its glory and time, with all its worries, will pass away. But the Word of the Lord stands forever. And that is the Word brought to you, the Word you believe, the Word that gives you eternal life.
So where does that leave us Now, Dec 31, at the close of 2015?
God has given you Time and Eternity. Now is the Time to believe. Now is the Time to live for God, to live as God’s man, God’s woman, right where he has placed you.
God’s Time Is Now.
Now is the Time, because Jesus has done it all!
A blessed New Year to each of you in Jesus. Amen.