Faithful Watching and Waiting
Christmas Eve – 2015 LSB #’s 370, 900, 363
Text – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
FAITHFUL WATCHING & WAITING
Have you ever been in an airline terminal when a plane is late? The passengers who are waiting often people break out into at least five different groups.
First, there are the pushers. They push for information. They go up to the ticket counter asking, “When is the plane going to be here? I’ve got to know now, when it’s going to be here?” Pushers demand information as if knowing is going to cause that plane to fly faster.
Next, there are the doubters. They sit down in defeat. “It’ll never come. If it does come there’s going to be something wrong with it. They’re going to have to get another plane. We’re all stuck! Doomed! I say, we are all doomed!”
Another group will be the sleepers. They curl up into an airline terminal chair, or stretch out on the floor & hope that when they wake, everything will be fine. They let others handle the stress, but they don’t contribute anything to the solution either.
Then there are the players. Players say, “The plane’s late! Great! Let’s go to the bar & have a few more drinks; watch a few more games; eat a few more chicken wings. As long as we’re here we may as well have some fun!”
Finally, there are the encouragers. Encouragers say, “True, we don’t have an arrival time yet but the plane is on the way. This airline has never let me down. Be alert, though, because it could show up at any time!”
What type of person are you when it comes to waiting for a plane to arrive? More importantly, on this Christmas Eve, what kind of person are you when it comes to waiting for the Savior to arrive?
First, we’ll look a little closer at THE PUSHERS. They need exact dates & times. You might remember a man named Edgar Whisenant. He was a NASA engineer who used his mathematical skills to set a date for Christ’s return.
He wrote a book called, 88 Reasons why the Rapture will take Place in 1988. He was so certain that Jesus would return on September 10, 1988 that he said, “If I’m wrong then the scripture is mistaken.” He knew for certain that Jesus would arrive on that day.
Jesus says in Matthew 24:36 that the angels didn’t know, & Jesus Himself doesn’t know, but amazingly enough, Edgar Whisenant did. September 10, 1988 came & passed. Yet, the old saying held true, “If first you don’t succeed, fail & fail again.”
Edgar wrote a 2nd book the next year claiming he forgot that the calendar didn’t start with one but with year zero, so he was just a year off. 1989 would bring the rapture. That failed too. No one knows. That’s what Paul says:
“Now, brothers, about times & dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” 
The only other time in the Bible these same two words, “times & dates,” appear together is in Acts 1:7. There Jesus told his followers, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.”
The apostles were asking Jesus for details about the future, & He makes it clear that the duration of time between His 1st & 2nd coming are hidden from our view. There are some things that we are not meant to know until they happen – when we will die, surprise birthday parties & when your mother-in-law is coming. Add to that list the Day of the Lord.
That day will come like a thief in the night. The expression also appears in Luke 12:39 &
Revelation 3:3. How does a thief come? He comes unexpectedly. He comes when we are
unaware. A thief doesn’t call ahead telling you to get ready.
The next group we examine more closely are THE DOUBTERS. A man called 911, saying, “My wife is pregnant, & her contractions are only two minutes apart!” The dispatcher asked, “Is this her first child?” “No, of course not!” the man said, “This is her husband!”
We all know that a pregnant woman is going to have a baby. There is no escape. Just so, Paul says to the doubters, you will not escape: “While people are saying, ‘Peace & safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, & they will not escape.”
There was a young man who was told by his father if he touched an electrical fence, it would shock him. So the boy touched it. His dad said, “I told you so.” The boy’s reply, “Yeah, but I didn’t think you meant it.” God means it when He says Christ is coming again.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about THE SLEEPERS. Especially in the busyness of the holiday season, all of us understand what it is to become a sleeper. It is so easy to become indifferent & apathetic to the good news that our sins have been washed away. Pretty soon we end up spiritually asleep. Many of us need a divine wakeup call!
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert & self-controlled.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
The 4th group we’re referring to are THE PLAYERS. In the sermon text, St. Paul wrote: “. . . and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:7)
Abraham Lincoln died. So did Woodrow Wilson & Babe Ruth. John F. Kennedy died & so did Princess Diana. We all die; about two people every second, more than 6,000 die every hour, more than 155,000 people die each day & about 57 million die every year. The Players deny these facts. They avoid thinking about the fact that it might happen to them. They ignore
biblical warnings. They have a great time. Life is just a party!
The last group to consider are THE ENCOURAGERS. St. Paul wrote this:
“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith & love as a breastplate, & the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are alive or dead, we may live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another & build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 
Using armor imagery, Paul reveals what’s essential for our “Day of the Lord Preparedness Kit.” He says nothing about canned food, purified water, a generator, or a handgun. Instead, we are to put on faith, hope & love, the same triad of character qualities Paul mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. The apostle Paul was an encourager.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul says that when life is boiled down to its absolute essentials, these three remain: faith, hope & love. Living that out encourages others; it gives them credible hope in Christ’s return.
Carl McCunn moved to Alaska in the late 1970s where he got a job, made some friends & planned an adventure that still has people talking about him. He planned a five-month photography expedition into the Alaskan wild. He checked the details & prepared for everything he would need.
In March of 1981, Carl was dropped into a remote place near the Coleen River, 70 miles northeast of Ft. Yukon. He had two rifles, a shotgun, fourteen hundred pounds of supplies, & five hundred rolls of film. He began his adventure, completely unaware of an overlooked detail that would cost him his life.
Carl had made no arrangements for anyone to pick him up. In August of that year, he wrote in his diary an understatement the size of Mt. McKinley: “I think I should have used more foresight about arranging my departure.” By late November of 1981, McCunn was out of food, strength & hope. Isolated with no one to rescue him; trapped with no exit plan, Carl McCunn died in the Alaskan wilderness. Every trip comes to an end. So will ours! The only question is, “Which of the two final endpoints will we find ourselves at?”
Encouragers want people to have an exit strategy! They say to their loved ones, friends, co-workers, anyone who will listen: “We don’t have an arrival time, but Christ is on His way. He won’t let us down. Don’t be afraid. Be alert, though, because He could show up at any time! And when Jesus returns He will take us home!”
The sins of the entire human race have been paid for by Jesus. So turn away from your sins, & turn back to your Savior. Trust in Him alone & you will live eternally. That is faithful watching & waiting. Amen.
Jesus! Name decreed of old, to the maiden mother told, kneeling in her lowly cell, by the angel Gabriel. Jesus! Name of priceless worth to the fallen of the earth for the promise that it gave, “Jesus shall His people save.” Jesus! Name of wondrous love, human name of God above; pleading only this, we flee helpless, O our God, to Thee. Amen.
 1 Thessalonians 5:1–2
 1 Thessalonians 5:3
 1 Thessalonians 5:8–11
Pastor Dean R. Poellet