I. Test II. Trust III. Thank
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirits fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
In the name of Jesus Christ, whose coming at Christmas we joyfully celebrate, whose coming at Judgment Day we eagerly anticipate, whose coming in Word and Sacrament we greatly appreciate, dear Christian friends,
This year seems to be a good year to think about which Christmas traditions are truly important and which you might be able to do without for a year or for the rest of your lives. Will you be able to make that annual Christmas treat when you discover that one of the products is no longer on the shelf due to factory shutdowns or wil forego that sweet tradition? Will you be able to host grandma and grandpa this year or will your households have to remain separate for everyone's safety? Will you be able to go on that winter getaway vacation to somewhere warm and exotic or will that have to wait until another year due to travel restrictions?
Christmas traditions are fun and usually have meaning in their history and purpose so they are worthwhile to observe, but keep these things in mind: most are simply human ideas that can, and maybe should be altered; changing them up a little can bring a nice spice of variety to your life; and the biggest thing to remember is that unless they are given to us by God, we can change them all we want. Consider the direction God gives us today I. Test II. Trust III. Thank and then RETAIN THE GOOD CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS! .
God's Word before us was written to the Thessalonian Christians who were new converts to the faith. The Apostle Paul had to leave them abruptly so he wanted to write back to them to encourage them, especially as they were facing trials, and to instruct them in living lives that would glorify God. While these words of encouragement and
instruction might seem routine for those here today who are longtime Christians, think about what impact they would have on the Christian rookie.
How does someone new to the faith know who or what to listen to? How does a newbie Christian discern between right and wrong? Do they follow what their conscience is telling them? That is not a reliable standard for truth. Do they listen to the most popular or powerful voices of the day? That can be dangerous and even deadly to saving faith.
The Apostle Paul's instructions for both amateur and professional Christian is: Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
Like the effects of a fire, the Holy Spirit provides warmth through Jesus love and forgiveness and light through the guidance and direction of his Word (Ps 119:105). This fire of the Spirit is lit in us through the Word and baptism and is stoked in us through the Word and communion. This is a fire that can never be extinguished by the forces of evil, but can be put out by us if we treat prophecies (that is, his Word) with contempt.
Do your Christmas traditions include certain books read at this time of year or certain songs sung or certain movies watched? If so, test them. Do they have good content? Will they lead you away from God? Are they true to God's Word?
everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. Typically, things with a Christmas theme are appropriate, but Satan will get into these things as well and use them to try to get us to put out the Spirit's fire and treat his Word with contempt.
If you are faithful in your worship, Bible study and daily devotions, giving the Spirit the opportunity to light a fire underneath you, you will be able to test everything better, you will want to hold on to the good, you will be intent on avoiding every kind of evil. If being in the Word is not part of your Christmas tradition, it is time to start, just as every tradition gets its start somewhere sometime with someone.
If you don't think you can start a new and good tradition like that, then it is time to start another new tradition: a deeper trust in the one who can do all things. Recall what Paul writes here: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
At your baptism, God made you his own and promised to care for you physically, emotionally, spiritually, eternally. Why would we turn down such an offer from anyone who said they would take care of every aspect of our lives unless the person who told us they would do these things let us down? God has never let us down.
By the power of baptism, he has sanctified us through and through that is, washed us clean of our sins and given us the power to live God-pleasing lives. By the power of his forgiveness gifted to us through the perfection, sacrifice and victory of Jesus, he has made us blameless not sinless, but blameless, that is, not able to be accused by Satan on the day of our death or the Day of Judgment, but rather accepted by God into his kingdom through the work of Jesus on our behalf.
Some Christmas traditions might put the emphasis on money, like “we always celebrate on Christmas Eve so I can work Christmas Day and get double time”. Some traditions might put the emphasis on family, like the best part of Christmas is when
grandpa dresses up like Santa Claus and gives out presents; Christmas wouldn't be the same without him.”
Can money or family save us from our sins? Of course not! Have either of these let us down? If not yet, then they probably will someday. Retain the Christmas traditions you have that remind you what God has done for you in Christ Jesus and trust him for eternity.
And as the Apostle Paul writes here: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. This is possible only because God is faithful, but because God is faithful this is possible. With the love of God on your side, you can be joyful even when COVID-19 hits your health or impacts your invitations for Christmas. With the power of God on your side, you can pray even when all your other capabilities have been taken away from you. With the forgiveness of God on your side, you can give thanks even when your faculties, family, or finances fail. When our joy and our prayers and our thanks have been inconsistent or non-existent, let's go back to our God who is faithful and receive release from the guilt and punishment of all our sins!
Some of you have a wonderful tradition of attending Christmas Eve worship, but a not-so-wonderful tradition of not attending Christmas Day worship. Is that what your parents did? Is that because you are too tired from the night before? Is that because you are too busy preparing to host Christmas dinner? Why not change that tradition this year? Just think: you can thank God publicly not just once, but twice for everything he has done for you in Christ Jesus AND you can invite someone else to join you not just once, but twice!
Many of your Christmas traditions are probably worth continuing, but it might also be good to take the time to test them this year. If they help you to trust in Jesus or if they help you to thank Jesus, retain them and use them to lead your family and the next generation to be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.