I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Here ends our text.
Maxine, Carol, and David, family and friends, it is the season of Christmas, a time of rejoicing and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Instead, we gather today in mourning, or at least, that’s what you might think.
As hard as it might be, this is precisely the right time that we should be rejoicing and celebrating, not only for the birth of our Savior, but also for Dorothy as well. We rejoice and celebrate because our sister in Christ is now with Christ. She has left the valley of the shadow of death and she now rests in the everlasting light and life of Jesus Christ.
If there was anyone who would want you to mourn less, it would be Dorothy. It’s not because she doesn’t want you to worry or care about her or to mourn her passing. The reason why she would not want you to mourn is because there is nothing to mourn. Dorothy knew that. She knew that her time on this earth would be limited. She knew that one day, she would die. For Dorothy, that day happened to be last Wednesday. But she also knew that when she died, this would not be the end of her life. She knew that because God had placed His name upon her, that because Jesus Christ came to live and to die for her, she would have eternal life. She knew what would happen when she drew her last breath on this earth. She knew that her loving Father would welcome her with open and waiting arms.
That is why we should not mourn but rejoice! We should rejoice because of the eternal life that Dorothy received! Yes, it will be hard to rejoice when right now it feels only natural to mourn, but like all things, this too shall pass. If there was one who knew sorrow and mourning, it was David. But even for all the sorrow and mourning David experienced, he was able to say, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
We have every reason to rejoice at death and now is one of the two best times to rejoice because of what we celebrated on Sunday, the birth of Jesus Christ. We can and should rejoice because God sent Jesus for us, He sent Jesus for Dorothy. Because of the birth of Jesus, we know that Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. We know that God is for us and that God is in us, redeeming us, giving to us his gracious gift of forgiveness of sins, something that Dorothy received all those many years ago in her Baptism, something that she heard every Sunday in church. And in the last few years when she was at the Beehive and Pioneer Manor, she heard them pronounced for her also.
On account of the work of Jesus Christ, we know that when we breathe our last breath, there will be more to our life than the years we live on this earth. We know that we too will see the face of Christ and the heavenly room He has prepared for us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will have everlasting life. St. Paul reminds us, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
We are able to come together not as those who have no hope, but those who know the hope that we have received through Jesus Christ. We rejoice as Dorothy rejoices – not in our accomplishments but in what Jesus has accomplished for us. We have received the gift of salvation through His atoning sacrifice for us. When God speaks to us in this way, when He comes to give us a garment of salvation, a robe of righteousness, it is most certainly better for us to receive than to give. In fact, when God speaks pure words of grace and mercy to us, there is really nothing we can give. God’s grace is complete. It is absolute. It is perfect. It lacks nothing and consequently nothing can be added to it.
It is God working righteousness for us, not us working righteousness for God. Dorothy could never do anything for God than to simply receive from His bountiful goodness. There is nothing that any of us can do except to receive from God. God gives and we are merely capable of receiving, nothing more. For 90 years, Dorothy received from the Lord: she received His gift of God’s name. She received the gift of forgiveness. She received His gift of body and blood which was given and shed for the forgiveness of her sins. She received His gift of everlasting life for her. She was covered with the robe of righteousness, the righteousness that she desperately needed but could not earn. The robe of righteousness that she received was not something that could be bought, earned or achieved. The robe of righteousness was given to her by Jesus Christ, won for her by His death on the cross. That very robe of righteousness that she received is what Christ brings to you as well. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
For you Maxine, Carol, and David, you will mourn today and in the days ahead. But the joy that you have is the ability to rejoice – rejoice in the faith that Dorothy had, the faith given to her in her Baptism, the faith that gave to her everlasting life. Rejoice because this dear sister in Christ is now with Christ. Rejoice, for one day, we too shall stand with Dorothy and all the saints who have gone before as we gaze upon Christ, our heavenly King. Amen.