Sunday’s Scripture: 

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent — the Sunday of Love! After all, love is the culmination of all that God is doing for us on Christmas morning!

Our scripture this Sunday is the Apostle Paul’s “salutation” from his letter to the church in Rome. It’s the very first words he speaks to these believers in Caesar’s city, the capital of the Roman Empire, and for all intents and purposes the center of the secular world. In the salutation Paul makes clear what this “Way” — this Jesus movement — is all about. He explains how God has been working through history to come to this point, and the obligations that puts on his followers – if, indeed, they should make the decision to give their life to Jesus. Thus, it’s a fitting text for our final Sunday of preparation for Christmas: to know what Christmas is really all about and to make it last eternally in our lives. 

Romans 1:1-7

I, Paul, am writing this letter. I serve Christ Jesus. I have been appointed to be an apostle. God set me apart to tell others his good news. He promised the good news long ago. He announced it through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The good news is about God’s Son. He was born into the family line of King David. By the Holy Spirit, he was appointed to be the mighty Son of God. God did this by raising him from the dead. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. We received grace because of what Jesus did. He made us apostles to the Gentiles. We must invite all of them to obey God by trusting in Jesus. We do this to bring glory to him. You also are among those Gentiles who are appointed to belong to Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                                                                     I am sending this letter to all of you in Rome. You are loved by God and appointed to be his holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.


Reading this from Paul for our last Sunday in Advent feels like our “Last Chance Saloon” – our last opportunity to drink the “living water” of Jesus before Christmas comes. And for me, it’s like having one last chance to convince the people of a Roman-like Empire to take a leap of faith that sounds most illogical; to join the small band of Jesus followers known as “The Way.” 

OK – maybe that’s a little too dramatic — and a little too much pressure to put on myself — but how can it not be urgent, and important? What if this Christmas was our last chance? What if God didn’t want one more Christmas to pass without your heart, my heart, and the heart of Vine Street Christian Church, to be surrendered totally and completely to Jesus — finally realizing in truth the words we often say – “Jesus Christ – My Lord and My Savior”?

One last chance. That’s what Paul must have felt like when he took to writing to this “church” in Rome. He had never been with them, but he had invested much of his work and prayers to the establishment of this spiritual outpost for God in the midst of the Rome – the “sin-city of the 1st century.” Paul knew his life was getting shorter and shorter by the day, and yet bringing a Jesus movement to Rome was paramount to his plan to reach all the Gentiles. So, every word that he wrote had to be on-point and compelling. If he never made it to Rome, he could at least say he gave it his best shot in this letter. 

These first 7 verses of his letter to Rome are all we need to prepare our hearts to make the decision that God is praying we make this Christmas. The question, then, is upon us. What decision will we make when there are no more empty promises and lame excuses: 

  • I’m too busy; 
  • I’m not worthy; 
  • I don’t know the Bible; 
  • It’s not convenient; 
  • My life is OK just as it is; 
  • Church is full of hypocrites; 
  • God can have some of my life, just not all of it

And on and on they go. There are literally thousands of reasons to stop in your tracks and not take another step for Jesus. But there is only one reason to take the next step. And it’s the best reason ever. Let’s face it: After we hear Paul’s words, it’s time to either leap or lump! Honestly, I don’t know for sure where I stand today — but I know I’ve got some work to do. And I’m praying to God to help me get that work done for Jesus this Christmas. And I’ll be praying for you too. 

But here’s what I do know. Near the end of his life, Paul was finally brought to Rome to be put on trial for his faith. Paul would enter Rome for the very first time, wondering if there was a “church” for Jesus to be found – if all his work and letters had made any impact in this city of false idols and glorification of sin. 

    As Paul, chained and led by his Roman guards, came around the last bend on the road and within eyesight of Rome, there they were. A band of faithful Jesus followers had been waiting to greet him, to thank him, and to let him know that his prayers had been answered — and that everything he had hoped for for that fledgling group of new Jesus believers in sin-city — had come true. His heart overflowed with gratitude for these devoted disciples, and for God. On the brink of the end of his life — now he knew. His work was finally done. And now we have a chance to follow their example, to give our life away to Christ this Christmas … and it could be our last chance.

Work in Progress, 

Pastor Bob