As we come to the end of the year and begin to look forward to the next, we emphasize our need to grow in prayer in the new year. All of us have room to grow and need to grow in our relationship with the Lord through prayer. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul shows us just how vital prayer is to our spiritual life.
It is fitting end to 2020 to come and receive a message of hope from God’s Word. Hope is what every one of us needs. This year has been a difficult and dark year. And the gospel and all of its implications, is good news; the good news we need not just this year, but every year. When the gospel is understood, received and delighted in, it produces hope in us. Hope that is strong, hope that is able to hold us up under the weight of affliction, hope that literally changes the way we live.
Christian joy is rooted in God’s gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and the future hope that goes along with it. We emphasize joy at advent because when Jesus was born, God was confirming his promise of salvation to all peoples. However, God’s promise of salvation will not be fulfilled until Christs second coming. Salvation is both already, but not yet. This week, we reflect on the nature of that completed work of salvation from book of the prophet Isaiah as we look to a day when all God's people will rejoice.
At the heart of Christmas is love. You can’t have Christmas in any meaningful way without love. Christmas is a season of love and generosity because God is loving and generous. Christmas is about God’s love in action. The celebration of the birth of Jesus, is about the goodness and love of God appearing, that is, being made manifest, tangible, seen, experienced so as to change our lives forever.
While under siege by the Assyrians, God calls Micah to proclaim to Israel a message of judgment and hope. God is punishing Israel for their wicked idolatry and greed, yet, God's judgment will not be the final word. He will send them a deliverer, a shepherd King who will gather together again what has been scattered and restore them to an even greater peace in Israel and not just Israel, but to the entire world.
Paul continues instructing the Thessalonians in how to conduct themselves when they come together to worship the Lord. And he encourages them with the wonderful truth that God is working in and through them to sanctify them. Their growth in holiness is sure for God is faithful.
The character of the Church must be patterned after the life and teaching of Christ and the character of any given church is shaped by conduct of her people. In these verses Paul provides instruction as to how God’s people should relate to one another with a specific emphasis on what are often some of the most challenging: Our relationships with those in authority and our relationships with those who require us to dig a little deeper to love well. Through Paul's instruction we will see that each one of us has an opportunity to contribute significantly to the Christlike character of the church.
We see in Galatians that racism divided the early church. And by God's grace, Paul confronted the sin of racism that was committed by Peter and others. Paul eloquently taught that no one is justified by works of the law and that there is neither Jew nor Greek, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
This morning is Missions Sunday, a Sunday in which we emphasize the call of Christ to proclaim the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation on earth.Throughout the Bible, God intends to use his people as vessels to carry the message of God's glory and salvation to the nations. And today, the mission of the church is to bring glory to God by inviting and urging everyone to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, making disciples of all nations.
In their exchange of letters, the Thessalonians ask the Apostle Paul the question we all want an answer to, when will the Lord return? Paul teaches them that the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly and that for Christians, our focus needs to be on making ourselves ready for his appearing, not on dates. He further encourages them that they need not fear the Day of the Lord. For some it will lead to judgment, but for them, it will lead to their full salvation and even greater union with Christ.