1st Sunday after Christmas – A LSB #’s 386, 380, 379
Text – Isaiah 63:9
…in His love & in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up & carried them all the days of old.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
The recording of Bing Crosby singing, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” will probably live on for as long as the American culture exists. The Christmas season is a very special time of year for the people of our nation & many enjoy hearing their favorite carols & hymns because they bring back such fond memories of Christmases past.
Most of us have memories of past gifts, parties, & all kinds of special moments that come to mind around December 25th. I performed a wedding years ago for a couple who became engaged at Christmas, & I’m sure they’ll always remember those precious moments in time as Paul asked the question & as Jodi answered him.
Posing around the Christmas tree leaves pictures that live on to retell the story. Video cameras give you live action shots of the toddlers opening their 1st gifts. Creative individuals make up scrapbooks that tell a very broad & yet detailed picture so they can relive the memories of Christmases past.
Human beings tend to be very sentimental creatures, & so the phrase, “The Good Old Days” has come into our language in order to describe those times of our lives that we look back upon so fondly. I pray that this Christmas has been a blessing to you & that more of those fond memories were created; memories that will soon be of the days of old.
Isaiah was recalling those kinds of days & those kinds of memories in our OT reading. He was writing of the kindnesses of the Lord; the many good things He had done for the nation of Israel. In God’s love & mercy He lifted them up & carried them all the days of old. We could say that Isaiah was remembering stories of the Good Old Days, & the crossing of the Red Sea would be the kind of picture he wanted his readers to bring to mind. Christmas carols can bring to mind fond memories of the Good Old Days, & often we enjoy telling others about them. It can be a delightful way to recall the past & to teach the children stories of their ancestors & of their heritage.
I believe Isaiah would agree with that opinion, but I think he also has a more important reason for encouraging us to remember the loving kindnesses of our Lord. That reason has more to do with the present & the future than it does with our past. For as fondly as we may recall the Good Old Days they are no more, & they never will be again.
Some people are so distressed over, or confused with, the current events of their lives that they actually try to live in the past. They dwell upon it, focus their lives around it, & fail to live in the present because of it. That brings all sorts of problems because the rest of the world does not stop living & it does move on without them.
I’m not saying that the Good Old Days are something evil, but we need to keep them in the proper perspective & use those memories for God’s purposes, not simply for ours. You see, our sinful mind corrupts every blessing that God has given. Even the blessing of fond memories can be twisted & turned to serve ourselves apart from God’s plan for them.
We may dwell on the past so that we can avoid dealing with the problems of the present. Maybe you’re not as young & spry as you used to be, but that doesn’t mean you no longer have a purpose in life. Maybe your family Christmas parties aren’t the same anymore, because of the death of someone you loved, but does that mean that God no longer loves you or blesses you?
Isaiah’s reason for remembering God’s love & mercy in our past is to encourage us for today & for the future. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness & not for evil, plans to give you a future & a hope.” We may find that future impossible to see in many of the circumstances of our lives, but our lack of vision does not mean God’s promises will fail. What it often does mean is that we are weak in faith, & rather than trust God & His Word, we long to relive the past rather than retell it.
I can talk all I want about how I believe in God & how Jesus loves me, but the way I actually live my life reveals more clearly the truth. Constantly longing for the good old days shows where our treasure truly lies, because it shows where our heart is living. If my heart is stuck in the past, then I apparently have little hope for the future.
People having little hope for the future need to hear the message of today’s OT reading. In God’s love & pity He redeemed us; He lifted us up & carried us all the days of old. That is exactly the message Jesus Christ called us to carry out into our world today, when He said, “Go ye therefore & teach all nations...” (Matthew 28:19 KJV)
He wants us to teach them what He has personally done in each one of our lives. Have you known someone healed of a short illness? That’s due to God’s blessing even if it was the medicine through which God worked. Haven’t you ever had a bad day, when a friend stopped by unexpectedly & cheered you up? That was Christ at work in your life.
Those may seem like minor incidents, but without Jesus’ birth, without Jesus’ love, you would never even receive minor little blessings like those. Have you been married to the same person for 30, 40 or 50 years? That does not happen without God’s blessing, & you should be telling people how God has worked to bless you in your past.
The Good Old Days were given to us personally, by God Himself, in order that we might look to our past & say, “If God has blessed me so graciously in the Good Old Days, why should I doubt Him now?” And when our friends, our family, our neighbors & co-workers are tempted to doubt God’s love for them, we should be pointing out how God has loved us in the Good Old Days, & then use those fond memories to God’s glory by sharing them. Through that sharing the Holy Spirit has been promised to bring healing into the lives of those who hear God’s promises. The Word of God never returns to Him without working His will.
Matthew’s gospel is filled with OT prophecies as he looks back to show God’s promises & their fulfillment. Hear the Gospel lesson for today: “[Joseph] rose & took the Child & His mother by night & departed to Egypt & remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Matthew 2:14-15)
One of the main reasons that prophecy was given was so people could look back & recognize that God does know the future & He is able to predict it & to fulfill it. Scripture clearly shows that Yahweh is powerful to keep every prophecy He’s ever given. He’s even powerful to keep the promises He’s made to prosper you, to give you hope & a future.
If you’re wallowing in self-pity, longing for the good old days, that’s a sin, & it’s of your own making. God’s blessings have much more power than something here today & gone tomorrow. His children need not despair, because we have a God who is almighty, who will lift us up & carry us all the days of our future just as He has in all the days of old.
Jesus does want you to tell of the Good Old Days, but not as if they no longer exist! Our God is not dead!! He is alive. He is risen!! He is still blessing you just as He did in the good old days of your past. In the future today will be the good old days because God is blessing you this very moment.
Hindsight is 20/20, & in our future we will recognize & long for the blessings of today, because normally we don’t miss the water until the well runs dry. But why wait until those blessings are in the past? Why not recognize them right now? It’s time to be reminded of God’s grace in the year now past, so that 2017 will be an opportunity for telling of how God has blessed you in the Good Old Days, but more importantly as evidence of how He will bless you in the Good New Days ahead. The Christmas season doesn’t merely look back to the 1st time Christ came to earth. It also means to remind us that Christ will return.
The Christian’s celebration of Christmas is different! While we are able to enjoy the “season,” the gifts & things like that, our heart is elsewhere; we have a different focus, a different understanding of this holiday than the non-Christians do. Certainly Christmas is about what God has given to us in the past, but He is not done giving.
When Jesus comes again, He’ll reward His brothers & sisters with the Crown of Life. And heaven won’t be like the Good Old Days, because in heaven we will rejoice in God’s blessings as soon as He gives them. We won’t be longing in self-pity for the days gone by. We will be too busy thanking Him, & we will be too satisfied to miss anything in our past.
As this Christmas season draws to a close, remember that the birth of Jesus is a “telling story.” God told Adam & Eve. The prophets told the people. Gabriel told Mary. The angel of the Lord told Joseph. Mary told Elizabeth. Elizabeth told Zechariah. Joseph told the innkeeper. Angels & their songs told the shepherds. The shepherds told everyone they met.
The Holy Spirit told Simeon. The star told the Magi. The Magi told Herod. King Herod told the teachers of the Law. Each of you has heard the story of Jesus’ birth many, many times. We are able to tell others, because someone 1st told us. They told us that Immanuel means God with us, & He is with us here today, tomorrow & the next.
Our God is not just a God of the Good Old Days, but Lord of the present & of the future. He continues to carry us, not only all the days of old, but all the days of our lives! Amen.
Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth & mercy mild, God & sinners reconciled! Joyful all you nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Amen. LSB 380:1
Pastor Dean R. Poellet