Year C – First Sunday of Advent – 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 –  For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Summary- We read in Acts 17:1-10 that Paul and his companions had previously come to Thessalonica to preach the gospel.  After only a few short weeks, many Greeks came to put their faith in the Lord.  This caused such a stir, that jealous Jews formed a mob forcing Paul and his friends to flee the city.  For weeks or even months, Paul heard nothing from the new body of believers in the city, and feared that they may have walked away from the faith.  Paul sent Timothy to find out how the Thessalonicans were doing.  Our text today records Paul’s joyful reaction to the news that the new Christians had indeed remained firm in their faith.

Insight- Happy New Year! This Sunday marks the beginning of the new church year.  From now until Christmas day, we remember Christ’s first appearing in a small town in Bethlehem, while waiting in hope for Him to come back a second time.  What do you look forward to this advent season?  Will it be filled with singing, eating, and shopping?  Are you already feeling the excitement in setting up the Christmas tree?  What are you most looking forward to this advent season?  Now compare that thought with what the Thessalonicans looked forward to.  They faced threats, suffering and name-calling from people who didn’t love Jesus and didn’t like what Paul had preached in their city.  Despite all that, Paul told them to love those who made fun of them, who threatened them, who hurt them.  Can you imagine how hard it would have been to love people like that?  Well that is exactly what we are commanded to do.  Do you know anyone who will say, ” Bah, Humbug!” when you greet them with a “Merry Christmas?”  Do you have a neighbor who is alone and doesn’t know what this advent season is all about?  Well you need to tell them.  In fact, as Paul tells you that you need to love them.  How much did God love us by sending his son to Earth 2000 years ago?  How far did God’s love reach in his first advent?  It went far enough to reach even you.  Now God calls you to extend that love to your neighbor.  So invite them over for dinner.  Invite them to church.  Show them what it means to be loved.  Find a way to tell them what you already know, that they are not alone.  We have hope that he is coming back for us, now tell others what you already know.  He is coming back a second time.

Child Catechism— Q: Why must we love our neighbor this advent season? A: Because Christ is coming back a second time.

Discussion— What are some ways that you can love your unbelieving neighbors this advent season?

Prayer— Father God, we thank you for the love you showed us in sending your Son into the world to save us.  Father, we ask that you increase our love for those around us.  There are so many people who don’t know you.  Help us to show your love in how we celebrate this season.  Give us the courage to joyfully love others who don’t love you.  We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Mike Fenimore