Let us make up our minds this morning, by the help of the Holy Spirit, that we shall live nearer to our God each day this year, than we ever have before.
Luke 2:21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
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Dear Brethren in Christ: –
“What shall I wish thee this New Year –
Health, wealth, prosperity, good cheer,
All sunshine – not a cloud or tear?
Nay! only this:
“That God may lead thee His own way,
That He may choose thy path each day,
That thou mayst feel Him near alway,
For this is bliss.
“I dare not ask aught else for thee,
How could I tell what best would be?
But God the end of all can see;
His will is best.
“To know He rules – come loss or gain,
Sorrow or gladness, sun or rain;
To know He loves – in ease or pain,
Is perfect rest.”
This, my dear friends, is my New Year’s wish to you all.
Hanging from the Star of the East, reaching over to the dark clouds of the future, is suspended the golden chain of time with its 1903 links. How far this may penetrate into the future I do not know, but one thing I do know, on the last link that is before us hang –
Four Jewels From Jesus.
Let me show you these this morning.
I. All years the last will soon be past.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus.”
How long the world was looking for a Savior, and some thought He never would come; but at last He was born, and the Star of the East led the way first to the Word of God, and then to the crib. The Child was born and at the age of eight days he was circumcised, when the “days were accomplished.” “All years the last will soon be past.” How many things there are in this world that seem to be so far away, and on this New Year’s morning I would call your attention to the fact that All years the last will soon be past – our years of labor; our years of health; our years of sickness; our years to be saved; the years to be numbered.
How hard some of us must labor from early childhood until the present time, – work – work – work; how many of us cannot afford to do without work a single month; we are living from hand to mouth; we are saving; we are trying to be honest, but it means work, and we do not know of a day’s rest that is coming for us very near, and yet, my friends, the day is coming when we shall not be able to find work, and the day is coming when we shall not be able to do another day’s work; some morning not far away we shall have done our last day’s labor. All years the last will soon be past.
This is just as true of our health. Some of us can boast this morning of not having an ache nor a pain in our bodies, of as perfect health as the Lord can give us poor sinners here on earth; and oh, how rich we are when we have no sickness, when we can stand before man and before God and say, “I do not feel that I have a member of my body.” How wealthy we are! If any one on this first day of this New Year can boast of perfect health, he should spend the day with thanksgiving to God. But, my dear friends, let us not imagine that we shall always be so well. Many a one is stretched out today on his bed of pain that last New Year was well, and many of us who are well today, may, before the end of this year, find ourselves in agony and pain. All years the last will soon be past!
This Jewel from Jesus, that the days were accomplished, is true of every one of us in time. Not only is it true with regard to health, but it is true with regard to sickness. I hear some one moaning at this hour, saying, “Oh, that I could say what you say; oh, that I could declare that I am well,” and if that cry does not come silently from those sitting in these pews, it does come from many a home. There are families in our own church that cannot be here this morning because of sickness in their homes. Oh, what pain! – what it means to lie on the flat of your back, unable to turn to the right or the left; – what it must mean not to be able to take a swallow of water or to eat a bite of bread without agony and pain! – and yet, my friends, there is no road so long that it has no end. All years the last will soon be past! There is no suffering in this world that will not come to an end, and it may come to an end this very year.
I call attention to the fact that the days to be saved are numbered for every man. There is not a day in which the Lord will not save those who come to Him, but the days for you and for me to be saved are numbered. There are people sitting before me this morning who undoubtedly will be in eternity before 1905; there are people in this city and in this state, and in this world, who will be saved in 1904 or they never will be. This year means a great deal to the lost world. Our Savior on the eighth day after His birth was called Jesus, and the angel said He should be called Jesus because He should save the people from their sins. That same name is before us today as the Star of Jacob to guide us through this dark world into the heavenly light beyond, but oh, how many are not thinking on this New Year’s day of their precious souls! – how many are still living in sin without asking God’s forgiveness! – how many are still living on as if they were to live forever! Oh, that I could point the whole world this morning to this first Jewel from Jesus, that All years the last will soon be; past!
It is not only true of salvation, it is just as true of the days themselves. I call your attention to the 5th and 6th verses of the 10th chapter of Revelation: “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven and all the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.” Every man in the United States today unconsciously is writing down the number of years since Jesus, his Savior, was born, but the time is coming when the angel of God shall stand, with one foot upon the earth and the other upon the sea, and, his hand lifted up toward heaven, shall declare, “Now, time shall be no longer. The years are all written; the last day has been lived.” All years the last will soon be past.
II. We must each day our God obey.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus.”
Could not the innocent Son of God escape the knife at the age of eight days? Must the little Babe in Bethlehem already shed blood, typifying the blood that shall flow on Calvary’s hill? Why must that little Child bleed on the first day of January in the first year of our Lord? “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations.” (Gen. 17:12.) “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” (Gal. 5:3.) “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with Him in baptism.” (Col. 2:11-12.) In all these words, both from the Old Testament and from the New, we learn that it was God’s command that the male children at the age of eight days, should be circumcised, a sign and an evidence that the sins must be cut away and thrown away. We are taught in the New Testament that those who are circumcised are debtors to do the whole law. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world not only to be baptized, but to be circumcised, in order that He might put Himself under the law and obey the law in its fullness. From these words we learn then that the golden jewel that hangs up before us this morning, from Jesus, is this: We must each day our God obey.
All the commandments must be obeyed, and use made of all the means of grace. The Lord our God did not give us this Book as an ornament; He did not have the commandments written with His own finger and preserved in the ark of the covenant, and written in the hearts of men, to be trampled upon. It becomes your duty and my duty on this first day of the New Year, not simply to resolve this or that, but to resolve to obey God’s commandments, not only this day, but every day. Therefore we should make diligent use of the moral law; we should study that law morning, noon and evening; we should study this law not only the first day of the year, but every day in the year; we should study the Word of God, not only in the childhood of life, but throughout all the years. We must each day our God obey. Let us make up our minds this morning, by the help of the Holy Spirit, that we shall live nearer to our God each day this year, than we ever have before. Think of it, how much nearer we are to death – how much nearer we are to the judgment – how much nearer we are to the great beyond! Life is becoming more earnest every day.
Let us not only try to obey these commandments each day, but I say every hour of the day. Moses told the children of Israel that they should study the Word of God, and especially the commandments, and teach them to their children, early in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, on the public highway, at home, when they sat down and when they arose; they should have this Word of God, as it were, on the ends of their fingers, on their foreheads, and over the door, everywhere, that they might not forget a single day that they must their God obey. And so I would wish on this first day of this year 1904, that you might every day serve your God and obey from early morning until late at night. Begin early in the morning to think of the commandments of your God, at noon do not forget the Word of your God, and in the evening do not forget your God, and at night do not forget your God. Oh, how many people there are who can go to Sunday-school in the morning, but where do they spend their afternoon? How many people there are that can be decent at home, but how they act when away from home! How many people there are that act like Christians as long as the sun shines upon them, but when the sun goes down and the darkness of the night has come, where are they? Let us each day our God obey, from the first hour until the last.
And so I would say that we should each day our God obey, not only through the twenty-four hours, but from childhood until old age. Our little children ought to be taught the great honor of obedience, – the manliness if you please, of obedience; they ought to be taught when young men and young women, that there is nothing so beautiful as obedience to God’s holy law, and when they get to be married men and women they should still love the Lord their God, and love His commandments, and love His great truths that lead us and guide us on the path of life, and when old age comes, and the gray hairs come, we should still love the Lord our God and be willing to say: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.”
This should not only be true of the whole life, but it should be true of the whole year. How many resolutions are formed on the first day of each January, and possibly kept a few weeks, but what is done in the middle of the year, and what is done toward the end of the year? My dear friends, one day in God’s sight is no better than the other; all days are alike to Him. Why should a man be a better Christian on the first day of January than he should be on the last day of December? Why should he be a better Christian in the winter months than in the summer? Why should you be a better Christian in the spring than in the fall? We must each day our God obey, is the Jewel from Jesus.
III. No brighter year did yet appear.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus” – Wonderful name!
There are a great many things before us which are dark and gloomy, so far as human sight is concerned. How little we know about tomorrow! How little we know about the coming week! How little we know about what may be in store for our families in this year! Great things will take place in our history. We do not know what will befall your family or mine, but there is one thing that we do know, that should be before us this morning, throughout the year and throughout life, – that precious name Jesus – the Name of all names to guide us safely to the haven beyond. It is said of that great master of art, Leonardo de Vinci, in 1497, when he had finished that great work of his, The Last Supper, on the Dominican convent walls, the people gathered around it, and he stood there disguised in their midst to listen to their criticism – he had worked for three long weeks at a little ship down at the corner of the painting – he was surprised to find that the people were looking at the ship and admiring it and speaking of it, but little was said about the central figure. His great object was to make every face in that Lord’s Supper look at the face of Jesus, and when he discovered that the people were looking at the little ship, he went home disgusted. That night, when others were sleeping, he went into the convent, picked up his brush, and with one stroke spoiled everything he had done in the three weeks; he destroyed the ship in the painting. He said: “I want the people to look at Jesus and not at the ship.” Oh, that I could this morning, with one stroke, turn the eyes of the world in this coming year to Jesus, and Him only! No brighter year did yet appear.
The Word of God has never been more interesting than it is now. It is the same old Word; it is the same old Bible that our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers had on their tables, and yet, my friends, as time is rolling on, and the fulfillment of the prophecy is taking place, new things are coming up in that Word which we never saw before. It is a mine of golden treasure, and the longer we dip into it the more gold we bring out. This Word of God has been to my own soul in this past year what it never has been before, and I pray my God that it may be for me in the coming year what it never has been before. We are told that some ministers of the Gospel go to the old barrel for their sermons. I cannot see how any man of God, as the ages are rolling by, the years are growing brighter, the Word of God being better understood, can be satisfied with his old sermons. It is the old truth that may be dipped out new, and I repeat it again, that never in the history of the world has the Bible been such an enlightening book; never has it had such a fullness of meaning as it has now, and will have in the year 1904. There never has been a time when souls could be saved any better than they can be saved this year; there never was a time when the Gospel forced itself into every home and into every country as it does now. This same name, Jesus, is just as dear this morning, just as bright, and even brighter than it ever was before; there are more souls today looking up to that holy, blessed name, than ever before. The world is beginning to find out that prayers without the name of Christ are all hypocritical; the World is beginning to find out that without Jesus we can do nothing; the world is beginning to find out that the King of kings is after all the Babe of Bethlehem; that the Hand that rules the world is the Hand that was lying in the crib; that the One who guides the stars is the Star of Jacob visited by the Star of the East.
There never has been a year in which we could be happier than in the coming year. I know there may be a great many things in store for us of which we never dreamed; there may be sorrows and sadness come over us that would overwhelm us, if we knew them this morning. It is a good thing the Lord has kept the veil before our eyes; it is a good thing you and I do not know what will happen the next hour. God knows, and that is sufficient. With all that, I declare on the basis of God’s Holy Word, there never was a better year than the one coming. No brighter year did yet appear, is a Jewel from Jesus.
The Alps are often above the clouds, and as we rise in faith in this Holy Name, we can rise above all the darkness that will come down this year. My Lord and my God has assured us that all things work together for good to them who love God. Let us then, on this first day of this year, love our God, and, no difference what happens, no difference what comes for you or for me, one thing is certain, it will be for our good, and being for our good, it shall be as bright a year as ever did appear.
Of course, some of us may die in this year; I am sure that some will. For seventeen years I have prophesied in every New Year’s sermon that some were listening to me who were listening to their last New Year’s sermon, and I make that prophecy this morning; and, if every one of you were to record your name upon a book this morning, I will assure you that when the first of January, 1905, comes, some hands will not be here to record their names again. But, my dear friends, suppose death does come, has the valley ever been brighter? Has the river ever been smaller? Has the shore ever been nearer? Do you realize as you are sitting here this morning, how long Adam has waited for the resurrection, and you have not very long to wait? Have you realized that if Paul was correct when he said, “The day of the Lord is at hand,” that it is so much nearer this morning than it has ever been before? Have you realized that the same God, for whose name the martyrs gave up their lives upon the funeral pyre, is still your God and your Savior? Therefore, even though we should pass into eternity this coming year, we will be so much nearer to the judgment, so much nearer to the gates of heaven, so much nearer to the final glory which God has prepared for His children. No brighter year did yet appear.
IV. God does now see all that shall be.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
This child was not only named on the day of circumcision, according to the custom of old; He did not receive His name after He was born, but He received His name long before He was born. We are told by Isaiah, almost a thousand years before He was born, that “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” We were told by the angel before He was conceived, “His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins,” and in view of this prediction by the Lord our God, before He became man, I hold up this Jewel: God does now see all that shall be.
He sees everything before it occurs. Oh, think of the big, broad past, of all that has taken place from this day back to the day of creation; and yet I again hold up to you this great fact, that He saw everything from all eternity. Time is only reckoned from the beginning of creation until the end, but before there was a creation, before the foundation of the world was laid, we were called in Christ. Think of it! The eye that saw all things before they came to pass, that eye saw that this Child should be called Jesus before He was conceived – that is the eye that is going to rest over us in 1904 – that is the eye that shall rest over us in all eternity.
What may happen from this day to the end of the world, no one knows but God only, but God not only knows it as it shall be, but He knows what shall be as if it had been; as He sees the past, so He sees the future, and I hold up to you this great Jewel that God does now see all that shall be to the end of time.
The present – that brings us down to the time when you and I are living. From this day until the end of the year, we will constantly be thinking something, constantly be saving something, constantly be doing something. As well as this day, the whole life, with all its thoughts, with all its words, with all its deeds, is seen by the eye that saw that Christ should be called Jesus before He was conceived. How safe we may be under that eye! What a lesson to teach our children! What a star to keep constantly before our eyes! What a comfort to know that all that has befallen, all that is befalling, all that shall befall, rests under the eye of God! These are the Jewels from Jesus.
Roll on, then, wheels of time –
Farewell the years gone past.
The door of Twenty-seventeen
Swing shut and lock it fast.
The Word of God is here;
The Savior’s name I see.
Up there are hills of joy
For all – for you and me.
What e’er we do this year –
There rests on us God’s eye
To see the best for us,
When years have all rolled by. – Amen.
– Long, S.P. The great gospel; an address to theological graduates, lectures on the gospels for the church year, and “that remarkable lodge sermon.” Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, OH, 1904. Lutheran Library edition to be released in 2018.