December 17, 2017: 3rd Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for reminding us today that You always keep Your Word.  You never lie.  You never play games.  When You make a promise, You stick to it, no matter the cost to You.  You allowing, nay sending, Your Son into this world to be born, suffer, and die to save our souls proves all this.  You foretelling His birth and then miraculously making it happen proves it.  Lord, may we never doubt Your goodness towards us.  Amen


TEXT:  I Thessalonians 5: 16-24

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

My lovely wife tells her Sunday School class: “The most important thing your parents can ever do for you is bringing you to church.”  She says that because she knows it’s true.  I thought about this earlier this week.  You see, the other night I was listening to a member who works with a lot of children and is den mother to various teens and ‘20’s recount the sad stories of both children and young people she knows who have committed suicide, suffered horrific traffic accidents, or gone off the deep end into despair.  I’m glad she’s a strong woman, because she’s needed it to cope with the emotional upset.  She went on to say that almost all those kids either didn’t go to church, or if they were baptized they never really followed it up with Sunday School and worship.  It’s all so very sad.  I went home thanking God that I haven’t had to deal with such aftermaths much in my ministry.  And today, I’m going to tell you why.


As a Christian, you should think of sin as a chronic disease that will kill you—if left unchecked and untreated.  For ease of understanding, let’s liken it onto diabetes.  As long as you take your regular insulin injections, or manage it with diet and exercise, basically you can live a reasonable life.  But if you neglect such help, diabetes will break down other parts of the body and cause severe problems culminating in death.  This is the human condition resulting from sin.

My wife’s father died when she was nine.  Her mother had to go back to school for a degree so that she could support the family.  The kids were often left on their own with neighbors and friends looking out for them.  They had little money.  Mom wasn’t around as much as they would have liked.  And emotionally all suffered and had to: “suck it up and cope because they had no choice.”  That being said, they never missed church on Sunday.  They never missed Sunday School.  God’s Word was like that insulin injection.  It was the medicine they all needed to go through life and become stronger.  And in all seven children, it worked!  Why?

We sometimes forget exactly what God’s Word really is.  It is God’s power in this world.  It is eternally true.  It is a constant that never changes.  We can always rely on it.  Whatever God says in it either has happened or will happen.  God’s Word also shapes and molds our minds and souls—always for the better.  It operates like a force field of angelic power to shield us from outside harm and danger and from hurting ourselves with self-inflicted pain.  The Holy Spirit promises to work through it to envelope us with such Godly power.  If you’re physically alone, in reality you’re not.  God is with you because you have the saving grace of Christ in your heart.  If you’re emotionally alone, in reality you’re not.  God is always there reminding you of the goodness, strength, and power that His Word has inscribed into your psyche.  That’s why the Bible calls the Spirit the “Comforter from on high.”  He is!  And we all need that daily and weekly injection of His life-saving medicine.  When you develop the habit of receiving it with Sunday School and weekly worship, it staves off all sorts of awful results and basically makes you into a happy, joyous, well-adjusted person.  So, yes, I agree with my lovely wife.  The most important gift any parent can give to their child is: taking them to church week in and week out for years on end.  Ignoring or avoiding God’s injection of grace is akin to spiritual child abuse.  And after the discussion with that member earlier this week, it’s obvious what the heart-rending results of such neglect can be.


Today is the “joyful” Sunday of Advent, hence the pink candle.  Today we’re all happy that our Sunday School children have shared their joy with us over the coming birth of Christ.  They have done so by recounting some of God’s prophetic truths concerning Christ, and also how God kept His promises without exception.  And all of this culminates in their theme: “Christ has opened paradise!”  That truth grounds infants, toddlers, young children, teens, 20 somethings, everyone.  It strengthens God’s “force-field” of power around us and in keeping us from harm fosters joy.

This is why St. Paul can conclude his 1st letter to the church in Thessalonika with these words of our text: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  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.”

Those words sum up this day.  They sum up life.  They sum up our existence as Christians.  God’s Son, Jesus, gave you His life for yours to make them happen for you.  He has handed you, this very day, the only cure for sin.  Don’t slap His hand away!  Instead embrace the joy of Godly fulfillment by faith and by feeding that faith.  Amen