Worship Helps for Advent 1

Artwork: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Artist: John Martin

Worship Theme: “Advent” comes from the Latin word for “coming” or “arrival.” In today’s Bible readings, Jesus urges us to be ready for his coming. It could be at any time. It will bring far greater destruction than when the Lord leveled Sodom. What a difference that outlook makes in our prayers! How much we long to see our Lord and experience fully the freedom he bought for us with his blood.

Old Testament: Genesis 19:15-17, 19-23 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished." 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" …  23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah-- from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities-- and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

1. How did Lot and his family feel about leaving Sodom? How can you tell?

2. In what ways does this story warn us about the end of the world?

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

3. What does Paul ask the Lord to do within the Thessalonian congregation?

4. What is Paul's underlying concern as he prays?

Gospel: Luke 21:25-36 "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 29 He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

5. What will it be like right as Jesus reappears at the end of time?

6. How will God's people react when Jesus returns visibly? (See especially 21:28.)

7. Because of this, what should our daily lives be like now? (See especially 21:34-36).


 Answers:
1. Lot and his family hesitated to leave Sodom. Not only did the angels have to urge them to leave, they even had to grab the hands of everyone in the family to lead them safely out of the city.

2. This story warns us not to be so consumed with the things of this world that we can hardly bear to leave them. It warns us that God is dead serious about fiery judgment.

3. Paul has already mentioned how the gospel produced among the Thessalonian Christians great evidences of faith, hope and love (1:3, 3:6). Now Paul prays for more: he not only asks for their inner life to become stronger, but that it also will overflow its love on everyone who will come in touch with them. (Do people recognize this happening in you? Your congregation?)

4. Paul’s concern is that the Thessalonians’ faith is alive and well, and that they will be ready to join the holy ones when Christ reappears. (Is this your priority?)

5. When Jesus reappears, it will terrify people. There will be disturbing signs in the sky, earth and sea. These will cause many to faint from fear, as the heavenly bodies are shaken. (Does the world expect this? Do you?)

6. When God’s people see Jesus coming in his power and glory they will stand secure, knowing this is the great time when Jesus completes his purpose for us and brings us into his eternal kingdom of freedom. (Is this exciting for you? Do you long for this?)

7. Because Jesus could reappear any day, there is no room for us to be distracted with the anxieties or attractions of this world. We should always be focused and ready to stand before Jesus when he returns.


 Putting your faith into action
Are you ready? Have all your moments of all your days been spent in preparation for the end? Or, as Jesus said, are you weighed down with all the things that seem so important but really aren’t? There is only one way for us to be prepared for Jesus’ return. The forgiveness Jesus earned on the cross makes us ready. We are clean. We are perfect. We are holy. We can stand up and hold our heads high because we belong to him. Meanwhile, we wait. We wonder when he will come. We take care of the things he has entrusted to us, knowing that we can’t hold onto them forever. The only thing that will last, the most important thing that we possess, is Jesus’ promise. He’s coming, and he’s coming soon. Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus!


A reading from the Book of Concord for the First Sunday in Advent
People are justified through faith when they believe that they have a reconciled God, not because of our works, but freely, for Christ’s sake.  This is the Gospel because Paul clearly teaches, “By grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.”  Now these men say that people merit the forgiveness of sins by these human celebrations.  Paul says to the Galatians, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law.”  This means, if you hold that by obeying the Law you merit righteousness before God, Christ will benefit you nothing.  God has presented Christ with the promise that, because of this Mediator, and not because of our righteousness, He wishes to be gracious to us. 
These men hold that God is reconciled and gracious because of the traditions, not because of Christ.  So they take the honor of Mediator away from Christ.  There is no difference between our traditions and Moses’ ceremonies.  Paul condemns Moses’ ceremonies, just as he condemns traditions, because they were regarded as works that merit righteousness.  So the office of Christ and the righteousness of faith were clouded over.  He argues that the forgiveness of sins has been promised not because of our works, but freely, because of Christ if we receive it through faith.  The promise is not received except through faith. – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles XV, Human Traditions (paragraphs 6-10)

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