A reflection on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 for the First Sunday of Advent, November 28, 2021.
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.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSVA)
Paul, writing to the Thessalonian church, is full of Advent.
Advent literally means ‘the arrival of a notable person or thing’. Working back from the end of our passage, we can see clearly that the apostle lives in anticipation of the ‘coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints’.
Paul lives with the end in mind!
And this hope drives him to his knees in prayer. He is thankful before God for the community he addresses – and especially for the ‘joy’ they inspire in him. He prays for a ‘face to face’ encounter that will encourage and ‘restore’ their faith.
Immediate delights and concerns for this early church leader.
From here it looks like Paul moves from describing his prayers to something closer to an actual prayer. Each sentence begins similarly: ‘Now may our God…’; ‘And may the Lord…’, and finally; ‘And may he…’ The language of blessing.
And the language of faith…Advent faith.
Clearly Paul has his own plans – ‘earnestly’ desiring to be with the community he loves.
And yet, he leaves the intersection of their paths to the God who is able to ‘direct our way’. The love and encouragement he so desperately wants to impart he entrusts to the one who is always building their ‘…love for one another and for all…’ Ultimately, he trusts God to hold and heal them until the most important of all advents – ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus’.
A prayer of hope for the immediate and the eternal.
Clearly the ultimate ‘coming’ of Jesus is something that presses in on Paul shaping his present actions and hopes.
I hope it does the same for you.
In what way does the season of Advent point to both the birth of Jesus and to the second coming of Jesus? How do you hold these two comings together?
How does the imminent arrival of Jesus among us shape your present? In what ways would you like this hope to shape your present more?