It is always Advent season. I know that Advent does not technically start until next Sunday. I will be in the States celebrating American Thanksgiving and you will have the joy and privilege of hearing Jason Pluim sharing God’s Word. But while Advent is a season in the church, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, for Christians it is always advent. Advent is a season of anticipation, of waiting and eager expectation. Each year, we remember how Israel longed for and awaiting the coming of Jesus Christ in a manger. In doing so, we reshape our hearts to be people longing for and awaiting to coming of Jesus Christ in glory. It is always advent season and our celebration of advent and the anticipation of Christ’s birth in the manger should charge our days and weeks and years with advent anticipation for the return of Christ. It is always advent season in the church because we are always waiting, always living in eager anticipation for Christ to come again.
As we move toward Christmas, we will be listening together to an Advent letter, the first letter from Paul to the church in Thessalonica. It is a letter filled with advent expectation. This morning we will be hear 1 Thessalonians chapter 1. Feel free to turn there with me. 1 Thessalonians is in the New Testament, one of the letters of Paul, likely the earliest of his letters. If you are in Philippians or Colossians, you have not gone far enough. If you are in 2 Thessalonians or the letters to Timothy, you have gone too far. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1, beginning in verse 1. As always, you are invited to leave your Bibles open as we read and study God’s word together. Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction, just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(set alarm timer for 0:30)
There are few sounds worse than the sound of an alarm clock. You are in the sweet embrace of slumber, wrapped in blankets, maybe drooling a lit, and then – Bam! – a noise so jarring no matter what alarm clock you buy or sound you select on your phone. You are in the middle of a dream where your cat is fighting a Tyrannosaurus Rex when – Wake Up!
Paul’s first letter to the church of the Thessalonians is like a blaring alarm clock crying, “wake up!” It is a call to a sleepy people, to a sleepy church. Wake up! Every verse rings with anticipation – Wake up! Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!
Wake up! This is no time for slumber, no time to lose focus, no time to drift off into lala land. Wake up! Rise and shine!
Advent is the season of anticipation. Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! As the church, living in the between times – between Jesus ascending to heaven and his return from heaven – we live every day in advent. We live in a season of anticipation – Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! Wake up!
We need to hear 1 Thessalonians because it is so easy for us live life half-asleep, to live spiritually drowsy. When I first moved to Brantford, I had to focus in order to get around town. To get from my house to church, I had to pay attention to every turn. Right on Longboat, Left on Blackburn, Right onto Veteran’s memorial. Across the bridge continue onto Clarence, veer right onto West St, then left into church. I was alert and aware of everything going on for those first few months. But the more I drove it, something changed. I still drive through the same intersections and make the same turns, but it has become routine. So routine I don’t even notice. Maybe you have done this too with a familiar route, but there are days where after I get out of the driveway, I don’t really remember driving all the way to church. I do it on autopilot and suddenly I am pulling into my typical spot in the parking lot. The drive become so familiar, we can do it almost half asleep.
It is easy for us to live this way spiritually too. When the faith is new, everything is exciting. We are focused and aware, wide awake to the newness, beauty, and wonder of the gospel. We hear, ‘Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!’ and our hearts leap in our chests and tears come to the corners of our eyes in joy. However, the more we drive the same road, we can, if we are not careful, begin to fall asleep at the wheel. This is not an argument against routine, against consistency, or against consistent habits. I am a firm believer in repetition and God’s ability to use habits to shape and form our souls. But this is a recognition that it is easy for us to live life half-asleep, to live spiritually drowsy.
So, from time to time, we need to be jarred awake. We need the alarm clock to go off and rouse us from our slumber. Wake up! Jesus is coming!
While we will look at different parts of this passage, most of our time this morning will be spent in verses 9 and 10 as we listen for who we are waiting for and what do we do now?
Listen again to verses 9 and 10: For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
Who are we waiting for? The difference between jumping out of bed and rolling over and hitting the snooze button is who are waiting for. The hope of the Christian life, the end goal at which we are to aim our days, weeks, and years, the final consummation and culmination of creation is less about a date on a calendar and more about a person. What we are to wake up to as Christians is the simple and glorious fact that Jesus Christ will come again.
But whether this is good news or terrible news, whether this inspires joy or leaves us trembling, depends on who Jesus is and what our relationship is to him. Verse 10 tells us three things we need to know about the Jesus who is coming, the Jesus we are waiting for.
First, Jesus is the Son who comes from heaven. The coming of Jesus is the coming of the king. Calling Jesus the Son who comes from heaven not only speaks to his eternal relationship with the Father, eternally begotten not made, the Son of God the second person of the Trinity, but it also speaks to Jesus as the Son of the King, as the one true ruler of all creation. When Jesus comes again, it is a royal arrival. It is the return of the King.
Wake up! The King is coming. The Son of the Father, who said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ – this King is returning. The one to whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord is coming. Wake up! Get ready!
Second, Jesus is the Son risen from the dead. God came as the man Jesus Christ, born in a manger in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, proclaimed the kingdom of God in Galilee, put to death by crucifixion in Jerusalem, buried in a borrowed tomb, but raise to life on the third day. The Jesus who is coming is the Jesus who died and rose again, the Jesus who ascended to sit and the right hand of the Father and promised to return. The Jesus who comes is the Jesus of the cross and the empty tomb, the Jesus of shed blood and victorious life, the Jesus who went down into the grave for us and rose to conquer the grave for us. The Jesus we await is the same Jesus who stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, who rose and appeared to his disciples with his hands still pierced.
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus We await a risen Savior. We await the royal son. And third, we await our only hope of rescue. Wake up! Jesus is coming!
to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. When Jesus comes, he will set all things right and make all things new. At that return, at the setting of all things right will be a judgment. The return of Christ will include just judgment upon those who do not know and obey God, where God’s holy, jealous, and righteous love will take the form of wrath upon sin. This is part of what the Return of the King will mean. He will come in victory, which means all that opposes his rule – sin, death, and the devil – will be vanquished.
Scripture proclaims clearly and consistently what it said quite briefly in verse 10. There is a wrath that is coming. There will be a judgment and none of us will be able to stand on our own strength. If it was up to our goodness, our righteousness, our holiness, none of us could stand. Not the best person you have ever met, nor the worst. All of us would stand condemned. None will escape the call on that day to stand before the King who has come. Either we stand on our own righteousness and finally fall, or we must stand on the righteousness of another and be rescued. The Jesus we wait for, the Jesus who comes in royal just judgment, is also the Jesus who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. Jesus the judge is Jesus the rescuer.
to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. Jesus comes to rescue his people from this judgment, those who belong to him, who trust in his name, will not face the wrath they deserve, but be rescued from it. Wake up! Jesus is Coming! Jesus who saves, Jesus who rescues, Jesus our only hope. Wake up! Get ready!
We wait for Jesus the King to come again. Jesus who is seating at the Father’s right hand in glory and will come again to set all things right and make all things new. We wait for Jesus the risen Savior, who poured out his blood and the cross and rose from the empty tomb. The lamb that was slain, who still bears the wounds of calvary. We wait for Jesus the Rescuer. The one who redeems his beloved. Wake up! Jesus is coming!
If Jesus is coming (and he said that he is), If Jesus is coming (and he has kept all his promises before, including rising from the dead), if Jesus is coming and we are called to wake from our slumber to the reality of his return, what now? What now? Having heard this wake up call – Jesus is coming! – what are we supposed to do now? Now that we are awake, how are we to walk?
Verses 9 and 10 hold forth three things that the church in Thessalonica had done that Paul found praiseworthy in light of the coming of Christ. They turned, served, and waited.
First, they turned. Verse 9: For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols.
In light of the coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel, the people who became the church in Thessalonica turned to God from idols. All they had ever known was worshipping the so-called gods of the Greeks. This was the center of their social life, family life, religious life. It was how you had respect in the community, how you kept your family safe from disaster. This is what their parents had done and their parents before them. To come to Christ involved turning away, turning their backs on what they had held most dear. They could not simply add Jesus into their life. They could not add God to the pantheon of other gods, add Jesus to their already settled life, as a nice addition, a helpful add-on. Instead, they had to turn. They had to realize that the gods they had been worshipping were not true gods, but idols of wood and stone and had to turn their backs on that to embrace Christ.
This was not just a change in attitude, but a change in action that came with real consequences. In Acts 17, Luke tells of Paul’s time in Thessalonica. He preached in the synagogue, proclaiming Jesus as the suffering and risen Messiah. Some began to believe, including Jews, Greeks, and prominent women. The other Jews were jealous enough that they whipped up a mob that dragged before the city officials not just Paul and Silas, but Jason and other believers who had welcomed them into their home. They were accused of defying Caesar’s decrees and the whole city was thrown into turmoil. Paul and Silas had to flee in the night to Berea. After time in Berea, some of the agitators in Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up a crowd there that drove Paul and Silas away again.
There was a cost to turning from idols to embrace Christ. Jason and others lost respect in the community. They likely struggled in their own families as some embraced Christ while others continued to worship idols. There was a cost, yet they still did it. They turned to Christ even with the consequences. They said ‘no’ to the idols, even knowing the cost.
They embrace Christ by receiving the word. Listen to verses 4-6: For we know, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction, just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. They turned from idols to embrace Christ by embracing the gospel. When Paul proclaimed the good news of Christ among them, it was not without effect. There were signs, deeds of power, confirming the truth of his message, there was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the full conviction of those who heard. and how you turned to God from idols.
In light of the coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel, the same call is issued to us. What do we do, having heard that Christ is coming again? Turn to God from idols. We must leave behind what we have clung to for our identity, our hope, our sense of worth, and cling to Christ, to embrace Christ clothed in his gospel, receive the word with joy.
If you want to know what that looks like, if you feel the Spirit stirring in you to turn and embrace Christ, please talk to me or one of the elders after the service. We would love to pray with you and walk alongside you.
Wake up! Jesus is coming! The first thing we must do is turn to God from idols. Second, we serve the living and true God. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,
The Thessalonians did this in two ways: their life and their witness. In their life, both their actions and their character demonstrated their love and service to God. Verse 3: We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Their faith was a firm trust in God that lead to action. Their love for God and neighbor was not just a sentiment of their hearts, but a labor of their hands. They were marked by a steadfast hope and joy. In this way, Paul says, they became an example to other believers in the whole region. The fact that Jesus Christ is coming lead them not to sit on their hands, but to go forth boldly in faith, love, and hope. It lead to deeper service.
They also served the living God through their witness. Verse 8: For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. Their faith in God was so well-known that there was no need for Paul to even talk about it in detail. They worked to Share Christ in Community.
Both the way they lived and how they shared God’s word were a demonstration of their deep-seated conviction that gospel was true and Christ is coming again. Would the same be said of us? In our prayers, are we able constantly to remember before our God and Father works of faith, labors of love, and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ? If so, praise God! If not, wake up! Has the word of the Lord sounded forth from us in such a way that not just inside these walls is our faith in God made known, but in every place so that Brantford-Brant is filled with it? If so, praise God! If not, wake up! Jesus is coming!
The first thing we are called to do in response to the return of Christ is to turn to God from idols. The second is to serve the living God through both our life and our witness. The last, and certainly not least important, is to wait.
For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming
Wait. As we have already seen, this is an active waiting. It is more like waiting for a royal visit than sitting around at home waiting for that Amazon package to arrive. We do not know when Christ will arrive, but as we wait, we are called to live as advent people, as people actively and eagerly anticipating the coming of Jesus and live accordingly.
There are few sounds as dreaded as an alarm clock. Our comfortable slumber is interrupted and we are jarred from sleep. Yet when it is time to be awake, time to be alert, time to rise and work while it is day, the alarm clock is just what we need to hear. 1 Thessalonians is that alarm clock blaring to rouse us from our spiritual drowsiness to turn and serve the live God as we wait for Christ to return. May we wake and rise to serve the Lord.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.