While these notes aren’t the full sermon, they may put you fairly close to the ideas I had in mind. Please note that it is helpful to read Acts 17 along with the Thessalonian passage.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Welcome to Advent. So how is our world doing today?
- Wars and rumors of wars.
- Personally, I am not sure our Government is solving very many problems.
- Fires in California and suffering along the border of our nation.
- Dangers of Global warming and real question whether or not we are choosing a path that leads to a better world or one that promises a very troubled future.
When has the news ever been filled with hope?
Where is hope to be found in this first Sunday of Advent?
Hope is found in God’s word.
- There is a certain beauty in our text today. Paul came preaching in Thessalonica!
- If you turn to Acts 17 we get filled in on the details of Paul’s visit.
- Some received his word. Jason.
- Some didn’t. Some were jealous. Ruffians from the market place. Kicked down Jason’s door trying to find Paul and his colleagues.
- Paul had escaped to the neighboring town of Borea
- Acts tells us these rebel rousers traveled to that city and Paul had to flee by ship; about 400 miles around the coast to Athens and eventually Corinth to escape his persecutors.
- But the point that is not to be overlooked is that people heard and believed.
- In Borea Acts tells us that the Jewish people there were nobler. They truly searched the scriptures for the truth Paul was sharing. Some received and believed.
- Likewise in the midst of whatever hardship and questions that exist in our word, we can find hope when we are willing to receive God’s word.
- We prepare our houses, let us prepare our hearts.
Hope is found in God’s work.
- Paul was no fool. His great encouragement was in knowing that the faith of those who received Christ was God’s doing.
- In Corinth Paul waited for Timothy who had been sent back to Thessalonica to see if any remained firm in the faith. When Timothy met up with Paul in Corinth he was able to tell him that those who came to believed still believed and wished to see Paul again.
- This caused Paul to write this letter to them.
1 Thessalonians 3:8-9 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?
- This was Paul celebrating that God had indeed honored his work and witness. It wasn’t Paul that Paul celebrated, but God.
- What is Christmas without Christ?
- Remember that Jesus is the reason for our celebration.
- There is hope in this because we are not alone.
Hope is found in a love that Abounds.
- Paul basically prays that those who have heard the word and became part of God’s work would abound in love for one another a much as Paul and thoe sharing in ministry abound in love for them.
- Basically, Paul is telling them to live in excess where love is concern for one another.
- A few places in the Bible we hear of how Paul escape the wrath of certain crowds. Sometimes we can say it was God’s deliverance, other times it was because people were watching out after him.
- What is the power and image of Love?
–Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest offers us this story:
adapted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (CD, disc 5).
Some years ago I visited an old Franciscan who lived in Gallup, New Mexico. He spent most of his life working with the native people, and he loved them deeply. When I knew him, he was probably in his late 80s. He was bent over and he would walk the streets of downtown Gallup in his Franciscan robe and sandals, carrying a cane. He would lift his bent head and greet everybody with the greeting of Saint Francis: “Good morning, good people!” Our job is to remind people of their inherent goodness, and this is what this dear man did.
On his cane he had strung a string of battery-powered, blinking Christmas lights. Now to anyone who is a tourist in town, they must think him quite the old fool — bent over, in a brown robe and sandals, with blinking Christmas lights on his cane! And it was not even Christmas time.
One day I asked him, “Father, why do you put those blinking Christmas lights on your cane?”
He cocked his head toward me, looked up grinning, and said, “Richard, it makes for good conversation. See, you are talking to me now. Everybody asks about them, and I am able to talk to everybody because of my Christmas lights.”
Now, was he a fool in most people’s eyes? Was he a naïve innocent? Yes, I guess he was. The “holy fool” is the final stage of the full human journey.
- If in the end of life we have nothing but love, then that will be enough.
- Paul does offer us one more thought.
Hope is found in holiness.
- To love Paul would add holiness.
- I suppose it is possible to reckon almost any action or moral choice as the loving thing to do.
- If love is the engine in life, then it needs a steering wheel. That would be love moving according to God’s will:
- Are we fulfilling God’s purpose and reason for life?
- Do our lives reflect the nature of God?
- Are we a people living according to the Spirit of God?
- One author one wrote:
Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you. –Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience.
Holiness is what we are to learn and practice in life. It is love in action.
Make room this Advent for God’s Word, God’s Work, Love and Holiness and I think our world will know hope. Amen.