November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 | New Living Translation
How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.
May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.
This Sunday begins a new church year. It also begins the fourth time around. I’ve been doing this for nine years. The first time, I looked at the passages together – the second time we looked at the Old Testament passages. We just finished up three years in the Psalms and now we begin by looking at the weekly lectionary passages in the Epistles.
This week’s passage kicks off our new church year, with a passage from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. As a review this is the season of Advent. While many treat the Advent season as a precursor to Christmas, it is so much more than that. During Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. During Advent, we prepare our hearts for his arrival. The meaning of the word advent means coming. The people in Israel during the first century were awaiting – they were preparing their hearts for the arrival of the Messiah. God had been silent for 400 years. Imagine that – God was silent for 400 years. For my United States readers, that’s almost double the time that our country has been around. There had been no messages from the prophets. It was a dark time. The people of Israel had been waiting to hear from God. They had endured oppression by empire after empire – they were waiting for a new king – along the lines of David – they were waiting – they were anticipating.
So what does that have to do with us. Currently, God’s people are again in a season of waiting – we have been in a season of waiting since Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection – we have been waiting more than 400 years – we have been waiting 2,000 years. Sometimes when we look at the world around us, we feel that God is silent. Over the next four weeks – we will be preparing our hearts for the arrival of the King. Is your heart prepared – is your heart prepared to celebrate his first coming. Even more so, is your heart prepared for his second Advent – when he returns to take home his church? This week we want to take a look at that. Are you ready for Christ’s second advent?
This is what Paul was writing to the church in Thessalonica. Paul was reminded the church that Christ was returning for his church. Paul tells the church to be prepared for the Lord’s return. How should our hearts be prepared. Let’s take a short look at this passage.
I see three things that Paul wants to see happen:
- He wants them to work on filling the gaps in their faith. What kind of gaps are in your faith? Where do you struggle? I know that lately I have struggled with where God is leading us. This has led to a series of faith decisions over the last six months. God and I have had talks and each time he reminds me of himself and his qualities. These little talks fill in the gaps of my faith. I encourage you over this next week to pray to God to ask him (through the power of the Holy Spirit working in you) to fill in the gaps in your faith. I know that I will be asking him to do that in my life.
- Paul wants the Lord to increase their love for each other. It seems at times that the church can be and is a dangerous place. How can that be? I really feel that the church should be one of the safest places for us to work our our faith and our salvation. After all we are called to work out our salvation. It isn’t always easy, but we are called to do that. Paul said that Christians should love one another. Some people are easy to love and some can be difficult to love. I know there are times when I am probably easy to love and other times when I am difficult to love – I get that, but it dosen’t change what God has called us to do – and that is to love each other.
- Not only does he call us to love each other, but he calls us to love others. Who are those others in your life? I know for me those are those who don’t believe in Christ. What if we truly loved others – those outside the body of Christ? Can you imagine the difference that would make in the culture in which we live? An old chorus goes like this “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It’s really something that God calls all of us to practice as we become more and more like his son Jesus. After all that’s what it means to be a Christian – to be a little Christ. Imagine if people saw Jesus in us.
- Lastly, Paul reminds us what Christ is looking for in His people – He is looking for people with strong hearts – blameless hearts – holy hearts. This is what Christ is looking for in His church when He returns again. What is the Lord convicting you of today? Are you living the life that He has called you to live as we await His return?
I would really encourage you to slow down during this Advent season. I see way too many people rushing around – yes, they are preparing themselves for Christmas – in a physical way, but what if we took the time to prepare our hearts – as the hymn says, “Let every heart, prepare him room.” Slow down – prepare your heart for His coming – because Jesus is coming again.
Let me close with this video from Christy Nockles – it is a song that we learned last year called, “Waiting Here for You.”