Jesus is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever
“We must adjust to a new normal.” Somebody I know and love told me recently she is getting a little irritated by hearing that encouragement so often these days. I know what she means. Anything introduced by the COVID pandemic that forces life from this point onward to be “new” is the last thing I want to think about! Not only that, but the changes we have absorbed in recent months still do not FEEL normal and we may be forgiven for longing that they do not BECOME normal. We are ending 2020 exhausted by all that this year brought us. We dare to dream that 2021 will bring relief.
There has seldom been a time like today to hear and really take to heart the message of the Word of God in the book of Hebrews. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We hear the same promises from antiquity regarding the coming of the Savior that people have heard over the millennia as we read the Old Testament prophets. We celebrate the first coming of the same Christ child this year as we sing the familiar songs of Christmas we have sung for generations. We give thanks for the same mercy of God through Christ as we look back on 2020 and remember all of the sins of the past year have been perfectly paid for once-and-for-all— as they have been in every previous year. So much about this year and the years to come will be different. Yet in Christ Jesus, what is most important about every year will always stay the same.
Advent and Christmas at Resurrection Lutheran Church in 2020 will therefore be remarkably similar to Advents and Christmases of years past. Midweek services will again provide a space for us to prepare our hearts in humble repentance to receive Jesus born anew in us. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will again give us the chance to rejoice that Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” Proclamation of God’s Word and administration of the Sacraments will again cause us to take heart that the gifts of hope, renewal and re-creation need not wait for a New Year…but are ours right here and now. Today. But all of that also allows us to open our hearts to things that are different: Advent and Christmas Eve worship via live stream. New outdoor services of candlelight Christmas caroling on December 23. Quieter gatherings at church as worshippers are limited to no more than 50 people. Electric vs. wax “candles.”
When our children were little, Juli and I used to rock them to sleep at night singing “Abide with Me” (LSB 878). If you are not familiar with the hymn, check it out. Though it can be sung at any time of day, it is often sung in the evening hours as shadows lengthen, and lights first turn on and then go out. Words to the fourth stanza are as follows: “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”
2020 is coming to an end. One way or the other 2021 will bring change…of that we can be sure. But in the middle of this year’s ending…a child is born. In the middle of life’s changes is the One who never changes. Jesus Christ is the same…Yesterday. Today. And forever! Amen.