Sermon – December 31, 2016

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

It is the time to seek the Lord, declares the prophet Hosea. It is the time. Time is what tonight is all about. Time has run out for the year 2016. Time is up. Do you seek the Lord?

Tonight is the vigil for the coming of a new year. It is a sort of new beginning. In one fashion time starts over for us. But, you ask, what time is it? Answer: it is time to seek the Lord. You say, “I have sought the Lord but he was not found.” For the world is in disarray. Your life is in distress. Turmoil rules. You are filled with fear. Worry overtakes you. A sense of helplessness has entered. Surely he has left us and is nowhere to be found. Is it the election cycle we just went through, with all its doubts, fears, uncertainties? Is it the prospect of national or global disaster? Economic disaster? You have been crying out in despair this past year. You have been afraid and confused, not knowing who or what to believe. You are angry with the way things are and powerless to change them. You fear for your children. What sort of world will they inherit from us? Will they enjoy freedom? Will they persevere in faith in these times of temptation?

Do you count yourself righteous? Do you point out the specks in the eyes of others and not see the log in your own eyes? Are you so blind that you do not see your own sin? Do you put personal gain ahead of service and love of neighbor? Do you point to your good works and your business in church matters to merit favor with God?

Such worry and fear, confusion and turmoil in your heart is not seeking the Lord. Such self-earned merits is seeking salvation in yourself, not in the Lord. Those who seek the Lord need not fear. Those who seek the Lord need not look to their own merit or goodness. We are all sinners and all together in unison we fall short of the glory of God. We lose faith and hope and trust when we see the destruction and turmoil in our lives today. The sinner in you does not care for God. The sinner flees from God. The old man in your sinful nature flees from God and does not subject himself to God. You are like the people Isaiah was talking to. You said, “We will flee upon horses. We will ride upon swift steeds.” For by nature you flee from the Lord, rather than seek him. By nature, you sit in anxiety and distress rather than seek the Lord. Thus, says the Lord, “You shall flee away. You will ride upon swift steeds. A thousand shall flee at the threat of a single enemy.”

“But your pursuers shall be swift.” Do you think by fleeing you shall be saved? Do you flee to kings and queens, politicians and presidents to save you? Do you flee to doctors and medicines to snatch you from death? Do you flee to your efforts and good works and religious activities thinking to please God and save you from the coming judgment?

“Your pursuers shall be swift.” There is no running and hiding from God’s wrath. There is no salvation apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Oh, what sweet words of comfort these are! He will rain down righteousness upon you. It is the yearning desire and heartfelt longing of every true Christian to be righteous. The Christian heart seeks to put away all sin from his life, his thoughts, his words and his actions. If you are a true Christian, you seek to flee from sin and from all that tempts you—the world, the devil, the passions and lusts of your own flesh. You pray, Lead us not into temptation. This is prayer to put off sin from your life.

If you do not desire and long for holiness, then you are not a real Christian. If you do not seek to put off sin and put on righteousness, then you are not a true Christian. Those of the world seek debauchery, drunkenness, perversion, and immorality. The do not seek the Lord, but flee from him, as did Adam and Eve. They know that the Lord comes to them as he came to Sodom and Gomorrah in judgment. They flee by saying he doesn’t know or care. That he is a tolerant god who overlooks the imperfections of people. That he is a loving god who would not punish sin. Or they deny that he even exists at all. They flee God by silencing Christians and the church; by adopting every class of immorality and perversion they can devise.

But you are not that way. You are believers in Christ and seek to put away from you all perversion and sin. You seek righteousness. The Lord is your righteousness. What sweet comfort! Your righteousness comes from the cross of Jesus. There, by his suffering and death he purchased righteousness. There in the blood that flows from his wounds he rains down righteousness upon you. You are covered in the blood of the Lamb, the blood of righteousness. You are clothed with Christ in baptism. His righteousness covers you like a pure white garment. You neither seek to do righteousness nor make yourself righteous, for the Lord rains His righteousness upon you. Jesus calls to you, “Seek the Lord and his righteousness.” And “Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Seek the Lord, for his name is Righteousness. Gory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord; seek his presence continually! Hear the inspired words of the prophet Isaiah: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”

You ask, “When may he be found?” Answer: when the Word of the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments are administered. You ask, “When is he near?” Answer: he is near in Baptism, for there he makes you his own child and pours out the Holy Spirit upon you. He is near in the preaching of the Word, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. He is near in Holy Communion for there he places his very body and blood of righteousness in your mouth. Seek the Lord while he is near. He is near in the assembly of believers as they gather around Him in word and Sacrament every Lord’s Day and His righteousness rains down on you. What a great and wonderful pleasure it is to seek the Lord and his righteousness.

The New Year is about to begin in a few hours. Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning. The Lord comes at an hour you do not expect. Be ready to open the door when he comes knocking. Now is the time to seek the Lord and put on his righteousness. Amen.