December 13, 2020

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126

“A Letter of Joy”

During this Season of Advent, I’m focussing my preaching on the Epistle readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. I’m looking for messages of encouragement to us in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. And on this third Sunday of Advent, I’m looking for the gift of joy that comes to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Epistle for today comes from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian congregation around the year 50 CE. The passage is from the last chapter, as Paul draws his letter to a close with some final instructions.

At first, the section may seem like a rather random bunch of aphorisms that Paul didn’t want to forget to include before he finished the letter: “Rejoice always… Do not quench the Spirit… Abstain from every form of evil.” And it may make us wonder why it’s one of the readings during this special season of the year.

Matt Gaventa, commenting on the passage puts it this way: “Few, if any, among the listeners who wander in on the Third Sunday of Advent will find in this disjointed list something that feels ‘Christmas-y’.”

Scholars who read the text in the original Greek … Read more »

December 14, 2014

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

“Testify to the Light”

Have you heard about the war on Christmas? It’s the idea that Western secular society is out to stop any religious celebration of Christmas by banning the use of the word itself in the public sphere, by calling “Christmas trees” “Holiday trees,” and making sure that the carols sung in public places are appropriately secular. Some particularly right-wing Christians are calling it a “war” on Christmas, and they’re actively engaged in the fight to keep Christ in Christmas.

All this controversy about Christmas is an interesting development in the last few years because religious celebrations of Christ’s birth have always been held side-by-side with secular or pagan customs. Even the choice of December 25th for Christmas was not because Christians knew the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but because it seemed appropriate to hold a Christian celebration while others were marking the Winter Solstice. Things like Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, and Yule logs were incorporated into Christian celebrations from the Winter Solstice holiday called, “Yule.”

Back in the 17th century, there was another controversy about Christmas. Puritan Christians in England wanted to purify Christianity by removing elements that they viewed as pagan … Read more »

November 16, 2008

Matthew 25:14-30
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

I didn’t want to preach on the parable of the talents this week. I figured that I’d preached on this text before, and I wouldn’t have anything new or different to say about it. I fully intended to preach on the text from Thessalonians about being children of light.

I thought that since we have a baptism today, that would be a good theme. We would celebrate the fact that we belong to the light and to the day, not to the darkness and night. We would rejoice over the fact that God has destined us, including this child baptized this morning, for salvation. Not because we have managed through our own goodness and effort to earn salvation, but because in Jesus Christ, God has reached out to us in grace and love.

I think it would have been a very encouraging sermon, if I had preached it today. But I’m not going to preach that sermon, because I couldn’t get the parable of the talents out of my head this week.

You’ve likely all heard the parable many times before. It’s another one of Jesus’ powerful stories. In our Sunday … Read more »