Good day, friends. Today we celebrated the first day of Advent in church and kicked off our Come Home For Christmas worship series. Missed it? Watch below! The theme of this service was the travel aspect of holiday planning. In my message I shared that the process of traveling is not always fun and can really be stressful, but the payoff of reaching the destination is what gets on the next plane every time. The same is true for hope. The Christian experience is not a painkiller to the despair and hardships we encounter in this world, but it is a the bedrock in which we use to look beyond the despair and believe that what we hope for, long for, and dream for comes true.
We'll spend some time looking at the two scriptures from this mornings lectionary that were not used and reflect on where can find the hope in them. Take a moment to center yourself and then join me in reading below.
Scripture to Read
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And 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."
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
- My Thoughts -
Paul's writing to the Thessalonians here is pretty apt for our reflection. As mentioned in the message I shared a few weeks back on 2 Thessalonians for stewardship, Paul held the Thessalonians in a special place in his heart for their faithfulness despite persecution. In this writing he reinforces those thoughts by giving thanks for them and longing to see them again. In Psalm 25 the psalmist writes a plea to God asking God to help them remain faithful despite the struggles they face from enemies around them. In my message this morning, I shared that Luke 21 shows us that we are not polyanic people to the despair, fear, and trials we face but that we press on with hope that things will get better. I believe that the psalmist is writing a similar thing here saying that those that walk in God's pathways can endure all things for "all the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness."
I think we all have people in our lives that just bring us joy to see and even if we only see them once a year or even once every few years, the visits never feel awkward and we leave with such happiness. Last night some friends of McKinsie and I came into town and we went out for food and drinks. We stayed until the first restaurant closed and decided it wasn't time to leave one another yet and went to another place. We stayed until they closed and the night would have kept going had McKinsie and I not had work the next day. These two friends are very dear to us and I hold them in the same regard as Paul did for the Thessalonians. I may not to get to see them as often as I wish I could but I'm thankful that they are the type of people to bring my spirits up and expand my capacity for hope, love, and friendship.
As we "pack our bags" for this Advent season, I invite you to think of the beloved family and friends that you are eager to see this holiday season and keep your eyes on the faith, hope, peace, and love that Advent brings. If we can do that, I trust it will be a very Merry Christmas.
Questions to Consider
When you read the words "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?" Who do you think of? Take a moment to reflect on what it is about that person that makes that true for you. Consider sharing that with them.
What is it that you hope for? (yourself, world, etc.)
What presently causes you despair?
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by the travels of the 3 Wise Men as we sing "People Look East." Bonus: Our choir will be performing this song virtually next week in church! Be sure to tune in to celebrate their talents.
1. People, look east. The time is near Of the crowning of the year. Make your house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table. People, look east and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.
2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare, One more seed is planted there: Give up your strength the seed to nourish, That in course the flower may flourish. People, look east and sing today: Love, the rose, is on the way.
3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build, Guard the nest that must be filled. Even the hour when wings are frozen God for fledging time has chosen. People, look east and sing today: Love, the bird, is on the way.
4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim One more light the bowl shall brim, Shining beyond the frosty weather, Bright as sun and moon together. People, look east and sing today: Love, the star, is on the way.
5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth Christ who brings new life to earth. Set every peak and valley humming With the word, the Lord is coming. People, look east and sing today: Love, the Lord, is on the way.