Sermon for the 1st Sunday in Advent December 2, 2018
Text: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 ILCW Series C 18:2096
Theme: Advent, A Time for Earnest Prayer
Lord, we come to You in prayer at the start of another Advent season. As a little child crawls into his father’s lap to make his requests known, we climb upon Your knee and pour out our hearts, trusting that You will hear and answer our prayers for Jesus’ sake.
The temptations, the tears, and the triumphs that we experience daily give us plenty of reasons to come to You with gratitude and for every need. Help us make Advent A Time for Earnest Prayer.
I. We pray for a safe journey.
What a great example of prayer Paul holds before us for Advent! After giving thanks to You for his fellow Christians, Paul prays: “Night and day we are praying earnestly to see you in person and to supply what is lacking in your faith. May God Himself, our Father and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you.”
Lord, I think one of the things he is praying for is a safe journey. He wanted You to direct his way so that he could safely return to his Christian friends in Thessalonica. He wasn’t asking for directions on how to get there because he had already been there. But he was earnestly petitioning You for a safe journey because his first journey there was cut short by trouble. He had to flee his enemies. So he prays for a safe journey because he wanted to come to his friends again so that they could rejoice together in the Christian faith and life they shared. He was so grateful for that.
Likewise, we also pray for a safe journey. Lord, clear our way to You this Advent season. Help us safely gather with our fellow Christians to enjoy that special bond of faith in You that we share. We earnestly ask You to supply whatever is lacking in our faith so that we move forward together with a stronger faith in You.
For the most part that will happen here at church. Help us all to arrive here safely. Paul had much more difficulty and danger travelling in his day than we do today. He needed your constant help and care. But I do too and I can’t recall that I ever asked You to get me here safely. Neither do I always think about the joy I have of seeing my friends in Christ who are here, gathered around Your saving Word. That was a thing of importance on Paul’s mind.
Too often I think of my church attendance as something for me.
Paul earnestly prayed for a safe journey so that he might be there for others, to help them grow, especially as he saw that the time was growing short before Jesus’ Second Coming. I, too, should pray for safe travel to Your house where I gather with my Christian friends. That’s not an insignificant request to put before You.
Could it be that I wrestle so much with my daily life at times because I forget to pray like that? Could it be that I look upon my journey in this life as a solitary one that I travel alone? How sad if I do because in grace You have given me Christian friends to help, support, strengthen, and comfort me on my journey. The same is true for me towards them. It is a blessed fellowship in Christ that we share. Maybe I find myself struggling too much alone because I’ve forgotten this. We are here to comfort one another in any trouble or need with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by You (2 Cor.1:4).
Lord, send me Your help today. You give us one another to help supply whatever is lacking in our faith as we fight onward in life to our heavenly goal. The days are evil; the time is waxing late. Lift our hearts heavenward to You in prayer and anticipation of Your return. I pray, give us safe journey together while we are here.
II. We pray that our love may increase.
But that was only the start of larger things for which Paul asked. He continued, “May the Lord increase your love and make it overflow for each other and for all people.” I ask that You do the same for me. Increase my love. Cause our Christian love to overflow for each other. Like a big river swollen by the winter rains, let the still waters of the Gospel swell within me and flood everyone around me with Christ’s love.
Jesus once said that in these latter days “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Mt.24:12). That’s frightening. How horrible if Christians should turn against Christians…if parents turn against children…children turn against parents…siblings turn against each other…friends attack each other! Could my love grow that cold – towards You…towards others? Could love be snuffed out like the flame of a candle? May it not happen! I earnestly pray, make my love increase!
Not just any kind of love, but that which reflects Your love for me in Christ Jesus. Your love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is humble, not arrogant. It is not selfish, irritable, nor self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. It always rejoices with the truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Your love never fails (1Co.13:4f). You showered that love upon us when You gave up Your Son for us.
I can’t imagine what that was like for You, to send Your Son into this world to be born in such poverty that He might die on the cross for our sin. Such a sacrifice! I can’t imagine what it was like for You to do this after we had hurt You so much with our sin. You ought to hold each of us accountable for what we have done. Yet, You made Your Son accountable for us and forgave everyone through Him. That’s love, sacrificial, unconditional love, giving of oneself for His friends. Your love came to give to us, not to get from us. Increase what is lacking in my faith so that my love might grow to be like Yours – outgoing
I don’t always see such love in me. Sometimes I wonder if my love for others is drying out, like uncovered bread on a plate. Or I feel that it is shrinking, like air going out of a tire. I have been so cold at times to those who are closest to me. Is it because I don’t look often enough to the manger and the cross to see Your eternal love for me in Christ Jesus? Yours is a love that endures all things – all insults, all injustices, all pettiness and overcomes them for us. Yours is a love that sought my good, not Your own. Ah, how You have loved me! Help me love like You.
Lord, this is my earnest Advent prayer. Fill me with Christ. Make my love increase and overflow to all around me this season.
III. We pray for strength to be Your witnesses.
You showed such great concern for my soul. Help me show that same concern for others so that I may be found blameless on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus returns.
I’m especially thinking of the grudges that I let fester within me. I hold too many grudges against the people I don’t like and even those who are close to me. My heart is filled with hurt and sometimes my mouth is too. Lord, You’ve got to strengthen me and help me get past myself to see that Your greatest wish is that all people would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth in Jesus (1 Tm.2:4). You do not take pleasure in the death of any soul, but rather that it turn from its evil ways and live (Ez.18:23). If that is Your heart’s desire, could I begrudge anyone the need to be found blameless in Christ at the end, even as I must be found? I shudder to think what it will be like for those without any faith in Jesus on the Last Day. They will be damned forever. What is it like to languish in the torment of hell? Eternally is a long time to live in never ending anguish, bereft of Your blessings. I would not wish that upon my worst enemy. So, help me be concerned for every soul. I earnestly pray for You to strengthen me to be your witness to all.
Sometimes I forget to pray about it because I’m too busy asking for nickels and dimes for myself. I forget about the millions for whom Christ gave His life. Yes, I need to pray for my family’s needs, for health concerns, for financial matters, for peace in our country, etc. They are part of my daily life. You know that and promise that You will provide our needs (Phlp.4:19). But even more I need to pray for strength as Your witness because each day brings us one step closer to the last. The signs around us are obvious.
When earthquakes level states, tornadoes and hurricanes hammer communities, wildfires consume whole cities, nations writhe in turmoil, and violence erupts in the world, we have to think of things eternal and are forced to remember Christ’s return.
Thank goodness that you have put these signs of Jesus’ Second Coming into the world. They remind me of what I should know but often ignore – our moving day is coming, the eternal moving day, perhaps sooner than I think. Give me a concern for souls – my soul, their souls, for every soul and give us the strength we need to be Your witnesses of Christ’s redeeming love so that we may all be found blameless in holiness of faith when He returns.
Help me to be a good witness this Advent season. This is about the birth of Your Son, our Savior. He must increase while all other things must decrease. The welfare of souls depends upon it.
So, I offer today this earnest Advent prayer. Lord, grant us safe journey as we draw closer to You through Word and Sacrament. Make our love increase. And give us strength to be Your witnesses so that many hearts may be established in Christ’s holiness when He comes again with all His holy ones. This is our earnest Advent plea. Grant it in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake.