Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we continue to walk toward Your manger, fill us with a sense of anticipation. Find a way to get each of us to reduce down what is truly vital this Advent season and to act on each of those items as we get ready to meet You. For then happiness and joy will come into our lives. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: I Thessalonians 5: 16-24
Dearly Beloved By the Christ Child:
My wife believes in checklists. She lives by and for them at work. She composes similar lists at home. My sister Penny is famous for her checklists. As we work together to take care of my Mother’s business affairs, she will dig out the pertinent checklist and assign tasks until everything gets done. I have my own lists—church, home, shopping, personal. I’ll bet most of you do as well. It just makes things easier. You get things done. You don’t just spin your wheels and get frustrated. It’s especially gratifying when you can check off a particular odious task that you’ve left undone for a long time. When you draw a line through it, a flood of relief is the result.
Today’s lesson could well be termed a checklist from God through the Apostle Paul. It is pertinent at any time. After all, God’s Word is always timeless. So, over the next few minutes:
LET’S COMPLETE OUR ADVENT CHECKLIST
1. “Be joyful always.” That’s the very first item. It’s especially pertinent today as this is the joyous “pink” Sunday of Advent. Joy is a fabulous gift from God. Joy if relief. It is a state of mind stemming from relief over freedom from anxiety and freedom from fear. Since the Baby Jesus comes to take away all fears and the anxiety that stems from sickness, sorrow, and death; well, Advent is prime time to focus on the joy He brings. Are you? Or, are you letting His joy come upon you in dribs and drabs? My experience is that most people who are sad are that way because they don’t fully realize that when Jesus said: “God so loved the world” He had them personally in mind. Likewise, when He said: “Father, forgive them” He wasn’t thinking about some amorphous group of people, He was thinking directly about them, one-on-one. When He says: “Be joyful always” He means you….Besides, all you have to lose is the sadness you’ve been carrying around and with such relief comes joy!
2. “Pray continually.” I haven’t been too good at keeping that lately. The stress of the holidays plays havoc with my prayer life. I’m usually too busy “doing for church” to pray—or at least I tell myself that. In reality, it’s a lie. But, I’ve started using my morning walk time to not only help my heart and blood pressure, but to pray. It’s amazing how many people you can pray for over a two mile walk!
3. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now, I’m not perfect when it comes to this point and never will be. However, I’ve definitely gotten better at it with the ups and downs of the last few months. Adversity tends to bring out a spirit of thankfulness in a Christian. I say, “in a Christian” because when tough times hit the unbeliever, they just get angry or go to pieces. The Christian, however, trusts that “all things will work for good to those who love him.” It trusts Christ who earned that trust on the cross and in the manger. And thanksgiving results.
4. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.” The Spirit’s fire is love and appreciation for Christ’s forgiveness. That fire gives birth to saving faith. And since faith comes by “hearing and hearing by the Word of God” any time we fail to listen to, focus on, and expose ourselves to God’s Word, we’re guilty of treating the Word’s prophecies with contempt. Sunday service is vital in order to have a blessed Christmas. Weekly devotions are important to have a meaningful Advent. The Spirit’s fire doesn’t come by and isn’t promised in your outdoor lights, flashing ornaments, or candles lit around the table. The Spirit’s fire comes via God’s ageless message of the Messiah and everything connected with Him.
5. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” These days leading up to Christmas are chock-full of temptations. Jealousy among family members is common. Greed is blatant. Gluttony stalks all of us. Miserliness, or the Ebenezer Scrooge syndrome, can easily douse any happiness born from a giving heart. So, apply this test to it all: Would Jesus be happy and approve of whatever “it” may be, or not? Your conscience will supply a pretty good answer. After all, the Christian conscience is schooled by God’s Word of truth each week, isn’t it?
Well, that’s our Advent Checklist. How do you score? Need improvement? Well, that’s what Advent is all about—improving our faith by sweeping our hearts clean and relying on the Baby Jesus to carry us. I know that sounds like a misnomer. “A Baby carrying us?” But, it’s true. Nothing is impossible with God. That’s the point of His love—it sounds too fantastic and too “other-worldly” to possibly be true!—But it is true! God’s Son did come. He was born in a manger. In Him God forgives the unforgivable—you and me. We deserve none of this, but in pure love God has given everything to us in Christ. What a God! What a Baby! This Advent season we think it’s all about preparing to give to Him and to others, but in reality it’s really all about Him giving everything we truly need to us! Paul ends by reminding us of that fact: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
We started out by saying: “Let’s complete our Advent checklist.” Well, we’ve tried and will try. But in the process of so doing we’ve also discovered something quite amazing—the Babe of Bethlehem has already completed it for us. And that fact underlies the joy of this day and every day! Amen