What’s the expression?  “What goes around comes around.”  No, that’s not it.  “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”  No, but that is a good one.  “There’s a first time for everything.”  Yes, this is it.  Except that I always thought in this regard, I would be the exception!
Earlier this week I received my first ever speeding ticket.  Yes I was speeding, but as I will tell the judge, I have an explanation.  The officer was gentle and polite, but still chose to write me up instead of just giving me a warning.  Busted!
In retrospect, I can see some benefits of the officer pulling me over – though I think I would have received the same benefits if he had simply given me a warning.  One of those bene’s is that I now realize in many situations (though not this one) I have been gradually increasing my normal driving speed.  Another one is that, since slowing down, I am less stressed while driving.  It is really peaceful driving at a reasonable speed … and I still seem to be reaching my destinations at the desired time.
Whenever I say, or hear someone else say, “I thought I would be the exception,” I think of Carl Sagan.  You may remember him for his PBS program Cosmos.  I remember him for a quote I read in the paper as he neared the end of his time in hospice care: “I always knew that people died, but I always thought that I would be the exception.  Now what?”  Busted!
Though I don’t really know if he had received Jesus in faith, the indicators I knew at the time of his demise seemed to say, “not.”  I pray I am wrong.  It always amazes me how someone who marvels at the wonders of creation as he did does not recognize the creator behind it all.
Perhaps this is a good time for each of us to do a little personal self-check.  Three passages come to my mind.  1) “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are earnestly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9.27-28) 2) “By grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2.8-9) and 3) “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16.16)
It is so simple, and so comforting.  Faith saves.  Faith is given in baptism.  Eternal salvation is given feely by God as he works in and through his Word.  And the promise is clear “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” (Isaiah 42.3) Since God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2.4) one who has been baptized pretty much has to spit God in the face and curse him to end up busted on judgment day.
Yet, so often, we are like Carl Sagan.  We get so caught up on the intricacies of life on this planet that we forget about the eternal.  Our life, as the devotion I read this morning from Lutheran Church Charities stated, becomes like a roller coaster ride.  We have great and exciting highs … and extreme and desperate lows.  For some people the highs are so frequent and regular that their lives are consumed by them.  The same is true of the lows for others.  In one case the Child of the Manger is often forgotten and in the other he is frequently cursed.  How precious the promise: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” (Isaiah 42.3)   Our Savior is not interested in having anyone busted … it only happens when we bring it onto ourselves.
Which is just like my speeding ticket.  I can say that the officer could have just warned me.  I can also say that I got into the position because of the traffic around me.  But the bottom line is quite simple:  I brought this ticket upon myself.
My prayer is that this Christmas season none of us will get so caught up in the “Christmas highs” or the “Christmas lows” that we forget what the entire season is built upon … “that God so loved the world that gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3.16-17)