“We want you to know what will happen.”
Candle Lighter: “Encourage each other…”
Response: “…with these words.”
Scripture: I Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.
Reader: The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
By now you are wondering, “When are we going to be doing something about Advent or Christmas?” At least, we are getting some Christmas music! There are some reasons. As we have said previously, advent means “coming.” This season opens with a paradox. Rather than begin with the birth of Jesus and end with His return, advent starts with His return and concludes with the Nativity. And there is an additional “coming” in between that has eternal consequences. Jesus enters the life of everyone who puts their trust in Him for salvation. The book of I Thessalonians has much to say about the Lord’s return. Christ had very recently come into the lives of the people in the church at Thessalonica. There was much false doctrine circulating in those early days, even as there is in our own time. Since Jesus is coming again, the question of what happens to people who have already died was on the minds of these believers. They wanted to know how death and Jesus’ return was to play out. There is an obvious truth here for any who doubt. There is life after death for everyone. Paul encourages the people to have great hope, not to avoid grief in death, but the Christian’s grieving is not like someone with no hope. One of the most powerful lines in this section is in verse fifteen. “We tell you this directly from the Lord.” What follows is as clear as it could be, concluding with “we will be with the Lord forever!” Could there be a more hopeful, glorious, humbling, joyful phrase in any language? You see, the season of Advent is not simply looking forward to the birth of the Savior; it is also framing the birth of everlasting life!
Music: The King Shall Come The Orchard Enterprises
O Son of God and Son of Man, Thou wast incarnate, didst suffer, rise, ascend for my sake; Thy departure was not a token of separation but a pledge of return; Thy Word, promises, sacraments, show thy death until thou come again. That day is no horror to me, for thy death has redeemed me, thy Spirit fills me, thy love animates me, thy Word governs me. I have trusted thee and thou hast not betrayed my trust; waited for thee, and not waited in vain. Thou wilt come to raise my body from the dust, and re-unite it to my soul, by a wonderful work of infinite power and love, greater than that which bounds the oceans’ waters, ebb and flows the tides, keep the stars in their courses, and gives life to all creatures. This corruptible shall put on incorruption, this mortal, immortality, this natural body, a spiritual body, this dishonoured body, a glorious body, this weak body, a body of power. I triumph now in thy promises as I shall do in their performance, for the head cannot live if the members are dead; beyond the grave is resurrection, judgment, acquittal, dominion. Every event and circumstance of my life will be dealt with— the sins of my youth, my secret sins, the sins of abusing thee, of disobeying thy Word, the sins of neglecting ministers’ admonitions, the sins of violating my conscience— all will be judged; and after judgment, peace and rest, life and service, employment and enjoyment, for thine elect. O God, keep me in this faith, and ever looking for Christ’s return.
— The Valley of Vision, p.27
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