Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Sermon for third mid-week Advent service - 1 Thess 5:1-11


Mid-Advent 3

                                                                                     1 Thess 5:1-11



          When you drive through your area at night right now, you probably notice a difference.  The nighttime is brighter than it normally would be.  It is because of the Christmas lights that decorate the houses.  Not only are houses themselves decorated, but in many places you see lit inflatable decorations on the front yard.

          It is estimated that the light intensity increases by around thirty percent during the time that leads up to Christmas. All those lights make a difference – so much so that NASA reports that they can be seen from space.  They brighten the landscape in a way that is not seen during the rest of the year.

          We take it for granted that we have light at night.  Electricity makes it possible to light up the night.  We can illuminate a football field so that we can do the same activities there that we would during the daytime.

          However, it was not so in the ancient world.  The night was a time of darkness. Oil burning lamps provided little illumination.  When the night arrived, it was dark.

          St. Paul draws upon this profound connection between the night and darkness in our text tonight.  He uses it to characterize those who do not know Jesus Christ, and to contrast them with those who do. Those who are waiting for Jesus’ return live differently.  During Advent we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s first coming at Christmas.  This season reminds us that that the Lord who came once will come again. We are waiting for his return.

          Paul begins our text by saying, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  The apostle begins by saying that the Thessalonians are fully aware that Jesus Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.

          People can reject Jesus.  They can think that everything will remain the same. But they are wrong.  The apostle writes, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

          However, this does not describe us.  Paul says, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

          We are not of the night or of the darkness because we know Jesus Christ.  We know the events for which Advent prepares us.  We know that God sent his Son into the world.  Paul told the Galatians, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

          We were alienated from God because of our sin. Not only are we fallen because of Adam’s sin, but we demonstrate this in our thoughts, deeds, and deeds as we continually churn out sins.  But by his death on the cross Christ redeemed us. He freed us from sin and reconciled us to God.  Because of Christ we now have received the status of being sons and daughters of God.

          Through Holy Baptism God has made us his own.  We are now children of light, children of the day. And this means that we live with Advent expectation. Advent holds before us the truth that the Lord who came once, will come again. To prepare to celebrate our Lord’s first coming, is to prepare and be ready for his second coming.

          The apostle says, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.”  Those who do not know Christ are sleepwalking their way through life. They are stumbling in the dark.  They embrace the sinfulness of the world as they make idols out of possessions and engage in fornication.  They accept the murder of the unborn in abortion. Their so called enlightened attitudes are the utter darkness of denying the difference between male and female, and of accepting homosexuality. The world is in darkness, and it only seems to be getting darker.

          However, we are not in darkness.  God has called us out of the night.  We belong to the day.  And so we need to live as those who have this status.  Paul says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

          We are protected by faith.  We live by trust in Jesus Christ.  We know that we are justified before God by faith in Christ and not anything that we do. We live our days trusting that we are God’s beloved children and that he cares for us.

          This faith is then active in love.  We care for the needs of others and put their interests ahead of our own.  We support those around us.  As Paul told the Galatians, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Living by faith in Christ we become Christ to our neighbor.

          Finally, we have the hope of salvation.  St. Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  We have the hope of salvation because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  We live in the confident expectation that the Lord who rose from the dead and ascended will return in glory on the Last Day.  We know that he will raise and transform our bodies to be like his own.  He will renew creation and make it very good once again.

          This is the salvation that awaits us and this encourages us each day.  We press on in faith because the Lord who has begun his work will bring it to completion.  The end has already started in the resurrection of Jesus.  We have received the downpayment – the guarantee of its fulfillment – in the gift of the Spirit.

          Paul assures us at the conclusion of our text: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”  Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we know that we will not receive God’s wrath.  Instead, we will receive salvation, and death itself cannot prevent this.

          Advent reminds us that we are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. We wait for the Lord who came once as the One who offered himself into death on the cross for us. He has redeemed us.  Risen and ascended he will come again.  We wait for his return and live as those who belong to the day and the light as we live in faith, love, and the hope of salvation. 





No comments:

Post a Comment