Printable PDF: 12-31-2017 New Year’s Eve Sermon
December 31, 2017 – New Year’s Eve – 1 John 2:17 – David R. Clark
THE KEYS TO ETERNAL HAPPINESS
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I heard it again this year after the Candlelight Service, “Don’t you wish every service could be like this?” You have said it or heard it about other things, “Don’t you wish it could go on forever?” Maybe it’s the company you have for the holidays or a vacation that was so good that you just wished it would never end.
I’ve also heard that at funerals. A loved one died, and people say that in the midst of their mourning. Maybe 2017 was a year where there were so many good things that you just wish you never had to turn the page on the calendar.
Whether your 2017 was that vacation you wished would never end or if it was a year you are happy to have behind you, we all have the same wish tonight – to have a good and happy 2018. St. John gives us the key to a happy 2018 and beyond.
- Recognize what is temporary. (verse 17a)
Does anyone know what the most popular toy of 2017 was? It’s something called “Fingerlings.” 2016 was the “NES Classic mini or Hatchimals.” 2015 was “BB-8.” 2014 was the “Elsa doll.” 2005 was the “Xbox360.” 2000 was a Razor Scooter. 1995 was “Beanie Babies.” I realized when I was researching this list that I don’t know what 2/3 of those things are. They are a long way from “Lite Brite, Etch-a-Sketch, and the Easy Bake Oven,” which were the most popular toys when I was a child.
That isn’t surprising because the world we live in changes so much. When I was first in the ministry my closest pastor friends and I decided to keep in touch with a round robin letter. You would get it, read everyone’s letter, put your own in or replace the one you had written and then send it off. It took over a year to get back around. Vicar Bence told me he gets messages every day/week from vicar classmates. Change!
People’s expectations change, too. How big was the house you lived in as a child? How big is the house you live in now? Compare the clothing you own now compared to what you owned when you were in high school. Consider what you think is a good wage compared to twenty years ago. I’m guessing there are some changes.
Some of the change is good. Some is not so good. Our concern is that as our world changes, it effects all of us and not necessarily in a good way. Our world has changed attitudes about morality, about money, about God that are not improvements. None of those changes will ultimately make us happy, but they are powerful temptations, temptations which focus on the spiritually unhealthy here and now. In every instance they will bring the worst kind of suffering. We need to recognize these temporary things for what they are lest we become so focused on them that we doom ourselves!
Change can be really subtle. Do you find yourself saying things like this: If I could just get a raise at work; If my son would just find a wife; If my spouse would just pay a little more attention to me; If my health could just clear up; then I would be happy. All of those are nice things. But they are also very temporary.
2. Rejoice in what is eternal. (verse 17b)
So on what do we focus? St. John told people: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
St. John recognizes that doing the will of God is the opposite of the world and its desires. That shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us. The world is the same as the time of Noah. Your heart is not going to become a better judge of right and wrong. It’s not about what my opinion is or what I think. It’s what God says.
Our holy God not only has a definite sense of right and wrong, he also has a plan for you and me that goes beyond today or tomorrow or yesterday. Seeing that eternal plan is the only way we succeed. It’s the only way we will find happiness in the long term.
That is really hard. It’s hard because we are immersed in our temporary world, and we don’t see God. God knows that. He knows how weak we are, so this is what he has done:
- He sets us an example of looking at eternity. He did that by promising Jesus to Adam and Eve, but recognized that everything had to be just right in this changeable world before he would send him. That’s what you and I just celebrated at Christmas.
- He gave us a reminder of eternity. That is why he recorded the Bible. With all the media that focuses us on today, he knew we needed media that would focus us on eternity. That is what the Bible is. That’s why we do everything we can to immerse ourselves in it personally and through worship and Bible Class. It changes our focus.
- He gave us an eternal solution. He knew we were still going to be distracted so he sent Jesus to be not only the competition to Satan’s distractions, but also the solution to Satan’s distractions. When we are faced with our failures, we have his assurance of forgiveness in his promise, in baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper.
All of these things he does out of love for us to point us forward to eternity. In his love for us, he knows that this alone will make us happy. His will does not change because he does not change. It’s something upon which you can always rely. These are the keys God gives us to be happy for 2018 and forever. Amen.