Lectionary Scripture Text: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13 (Advent 1C)
9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. 11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
In a way, these few verses almost sound a little sappy to our sometimes-cynical ears. Are we ready for the big group hug? But, seriously, you have to think about this in light of the environment in which these believers lived. It was not easy. There were always other powers pulling them away, cultural norms into which it was so easy to fall once again. So, Paul’s exhortation to the church at Thessalonica was not a sappy, feel-good letter. It was a reminder that there is something more, something better up ahead. It was a reminder to hold on, to persevere, and to open one’s eyes to the signs of God’s Presence that surround us even in the midst of all these things that get in the way. It was a call to allow oneself to be strengthened in holiness as one comes nearer and nearer to God.
Perhaps these words are something we need to hear. After all, these times are tough. There is a pandemic still running rampant, a pandemic that last Advent we all thought would be long gone by now. There is greater division in our country than any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. The world around us seems to be slipping into something that we don’t recognize sometimes. In a way, our lives are reminiscent of those early Thessalonians. And, so, we, like them, pray for strength, pray that God will strengthen our hearts in holiness that we might know the Hope that is always offered.
This season of Advent IS a season of hope. But sometimes that hope is terribly hard to see. It often calls for an adjustment of the light exposure in our picture. That may be an elusive notion nowadays with all of our automatically-adjusting cameras on every electronic device we own, but the shutter cameras that we used to all have (you know, the ones with the film) sometimes required an adjustment that would allow more or less light through the shutter, depending on the photo itself. That’s sort of what Advent does. It’s not a “beginning again” in that we start over but rather a time to adjust our picture, change the way we look at things, shift our lives just a bit so that we can see the Light. God will guide us as we prepare to do that if we will only listen, if we will only allow ourselves the gift of being changed. Just focus, make the adjustment, and bathe in the Light that illuminates your way.
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. (Maori Proverb)
Grace and Peace,