3rd Sunday of Advent – Sermon 77

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Less than two weeks to go – and around seven posting days to Christmas – have you sent off all your Christmas cards yet? –

This year – we’ve put up a special message board up at the back of church so we can send a Christmas greeting to all the people in our Church–(and – hopefully – any money saved will go towards the church re-ordering fund)–

But – what would we say? –

Merry Christmas – God Bless – the peace of the Lord be with you – or maybe something a bit more searching?

Both Malachi and Paul – had some important things to say to their churches – maybe we should too.

With the help of our readings we are going to look again at what they wrote – and the message they wanted to get across – to see if it helps us think about what greetings we would like to send to our church family –

Point 1 Malachi

Messages and messengers are a key theme in both our readings this evening –

The Jews in Malachi’s time were going through a rough patch –

Years before they’d returned from exile with great enthusiasm and optimism – their faith had grown deeper and stronger through the difficulties they faced – and despite fierce opposition they managed to rebuild the temple – the symbol of their hope in God –

They’d expected God to fill it with His glory – and make their nation the centre of the world –

But by Malachi’s time they’d grown tired of waiting – their faith had become lukewarm –

they thought they were – more than ready to welcome God’s deliverer – but the truth was – they were far from it – as far as God was concerned – they were doing the bear minimum – and Malachi could see they needed shaking up –

he urged them to take obedience seriously

You must be ready – He said –The Lord you seek will come – like a “refiners fire” – He will come to judge – and He will judge His people first –

They must not build their faith on what God can do for them – but on who He is

He reminded them of the wonderfully privileged position they were in – if they kept their faith – in God –

All would be revealed he said when the Son of Righteousness comes – “He will rise with healing in His wings – and you will break loose like calves released from the stall” –

The coming Lord would be preceded by a forerunner – who will clear a path before Him – and ‘reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents”

that forerunner was John the Baptist who we associate with the lighting of our 3rd Advent candle – John preached a message of repentance as a hope against judgment – and pointed the people towards Jesus –

Malachi – which translated from the Greek means – “my messenger” – was the last voice of the OT prophets before the coming of Jesus more than 400 hundred years later

– During the years between Malachi and John some of his message took hold – led by the Pharisees – the Jews became increasingly devoted to keeping the law – trouble was – somewhere along the way – Malachi’s main point – got lost – they forgot that the law was not an end in itself – but a means by which they could give God the full honour He deserves –

Point 2 Paul – Joy

Which brings us on to Paul’s letter to the Philippian church –this is basically a thank you letter – in response to the gifts they sent him when they learned about his imprisonment in Rome –

Paul wrote this letter from prison –
“I wish you joy in the Lord always – Again I say: all joy be yours”

As far as Paul’s concerned – there are no long faces allowed – we need to – get back to the “joy “ of it all –

The NIV uses the word “rejoice” – rejoice in the Lord always –we must never tire of giving Him thanks and praise –

Paul reminds us that God gives us the kind of joy that life’s problems cannot take away –

When we know God – and the hope of heaven – that joy will be with us always –

And – along with our thanks giving and praise – Paul tells us we must pray –

“In everything make your requests known to God in Prayer and petition with thanksgiving” –

Ask any Christian what they find hardest in the Christian life and they’ll probably answer prayer –

We can’t find the time
We can’t find the words
We can’t see anything from it

Prayer is probably the most underused underrated gift that God has given to us

If we added up the time we spent in prayer each week – how long would it be? – a day? – an hour/ a few minutes?

Its an intimate personal conversation with God – We must make sure we are fully connected with Him as often and as long as we possibly can

Prayer comes easiest when we are in a desperate situation – when our needs and our prayers are intense – when we show God that we are really serious about what we pray

As John Calvin once wrote:
We must repeat our prayers as often as we need to – a hundred – a thousand times – we must never weary in waiting for God’s help –

In life each one of us draw our own circle of experience and activity

And when we step outside that circle we feel anxious – sometimes afraid – whether its doing something for the first time – standing up and reading a lesson – or speaking to someone about our faith –

Whatever it is – we feel anxious – and through prayer – and knowing God’s presence with us we are calmed –

Prayer is not a last resort – its our first necessity –

An elderly Christian when asked what advice he would like to pass on the next generation – said, “Make prayer the first thing you try – not the last.”

We must never weary in wanting God’s help – we need patient determination in our prayers – we must keep on asking – keep on seeking – keep on knocking –

Point 3 Peace

With Joy and prayer – comes peace

When we bring our matters to God – and focus on what God wants us to think about – we will have peace

“The peace of God which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Jesus Christ”

Peace is one of those things that everyone wants – but no one – away form Jesus – has a clear idea -of what it is or how to get it – its many things to many situations –

Freedom from disagreements – from quarrels – a moment of calm – silence – harmony –

Someone once said “ Peace is that brief moment when everyone stands around re-loading “

Many of us think that peace only happens when our problems or difficulties have disappeared – when the kids have left home – or when the mortgage has been paid –

But pea
ce doesn’t come from a change in fortune – or circumstances – but from an awareness of God with us – It comes from allowing God to take charge – while we fulfill our responsibilities to Him –

In a book by Elizabeth Elliot – called “keep a quiet heart” – she tells of the reaction of her daughter Val and her family to the loss of a little girl – through miscarriage after four months pregnancy – just before Christmas – the little girl’s name was Joy –

She tells how she held her in he arms and saw her perfectly formed fingers – and toes – and how she grieved terribly at the waste –

But– Val found acceptance and peace – through prayer and knowing Jesus Christ – and the power of His resurrection –

That Christmas the children hung a tiny stocking on the mantelpiece along with theirs –

She wrote – Where your treasure is, there your heart will be – they now have a new treasure in heaven, known and loved and cared for by the Lord – and someday they will know her too”

God brings us unshakeable joy and peace – we have so much to be thankful for – and we must be ready to receive Him always –


So what message would you like to give and receive this Christmas?

Be prepared – Be joyful – Be prayerful – Be peaceful
Perhaps the one that sums them all up is be Christ like – this Christmas – and always –