An Advent Journal: Stop, Look, Listen – Day 2

“I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God’s amazing grace be with you! God’s robust peace!

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much, but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.

You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit — taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.

Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces, but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore — you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.  — 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, The Message

There are times in life when the sight of one beautiful red leaf in the middle of a rain-soaked sidewalk is enough to carry you through all kinds of puddles ahead. The day may be grim, the majority of the leaves dried up and rattling in the wind, but there it is. That one thing of beauty, the one that makes you gasp and say, “Thank you!” The one that makes you remember the joy. 

It’s not that the puddles disappear or that the brown leaves are suddenly green again. No. The ugliness remains. But somehow, all that is dead and dying is more bearable, a kind of balance has been struck. I cannot explain it, I only know it when it happens. “Taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.” 

And into the middle of gray days and bone-chilling winds and too-early darkness comes. . . Advent. A small candle flickering against the gloom, a beacon of hope and promise. A time to wait, yes. But a time to wait with hope. 

Where is your red leaf today? Where do you find hope?

Adjust our vision, Lord. Help us to see the trembling flame, the single shining beacon that will lead us to the center of the fulcrum. Help us to find that balance between trouble and joy. And then embolden us to help others find it, too. It doesn’t take much, does it? Just something the size of a red leaf. 

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  1. “There are times in life when the sight of one beautiful red leaf in the middle of a rain-soaked sidewalk is enough to carry you through all kinds of puddles ahead.”

    Love this, Diana! I almost stepped over and missed completely a red leaf floating in my morning, this Henri Nouwen quote that appeared in a post by Kimberlee (

    “Active waiting” means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

    Thanks for the chance to pass that along. Heading out to work now. Rain pouring down. I won’t miss any chances to look into the puddles I encounter. Each one will make me think of your post today!

  2. Glenda Childers says

    Lord, give us eyes to see the read leaf, the flickering candle, You in this troubled world.

  3. It’s like the one pink candle–joy/rejoice–in the midst of penitential colors of the season. Be on the lookout for the red leaf, and look forward to the pink candle in the midst of these gray days. Nice. Our leaves are all dried up already this late in the season, but I can keep an eye peeled for our state bird perched in tree branches: the cardinal.

  4. Ro elliott says

    this is a season of a more quiet place for me…because if I am not stilled…i will miss the “red” leaf He will send among the dead leaves…He is faithful~

  5. Thank you for this.

  6. I loved that quote, too, Marilyn! Good eyes for the red leaf today, friend. :>)

  7. Amen, Glenda. Amen.

  8. Cardinals do it for me every time! The only place we see them, however, is in . . . HAWAII, of all places. Love them – and yes, they are harbingers of joy. May you see many this Advent season.

  9. Yes, indeed, quiet is necessary. And so hard to come by during the rush of this holiday season. That’s one reason I’m writing this series. It forces me to slow down at least once during each day! Thanks for coming by, Ro.

  10. You are so welcome, Kadee. And thank you for coming by!

  11. michaboyett says

    Diana, I love that passage. I’ve never read it in The Message before. Thanks for sharing it.

    I keep thinking about this too: What does it mean to hold beauty and brokenness at the same time? To weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice…sometimes simultaneously? I love that image of the red leaf being the grace in the midst of all the destruction around us. Being attentive enough to see it.

  12. Thanks for coming by, MIcha. And yes, this whole enigma of holding two opposites together is on my mind and heart a lot. I think it’s pretty central to a whole and healthy life, actually – maybe most especially when we’re hit with both things simultaneously. Learning to pay attention and to look for the red leaf in the midst of so much brown barrenness takes practice, too. Thanks for the ways in which you help me practice.

  13. I began the Advent season without an internet connection (hmmmm…..) and feel as though I am running to catch up on lovely Advent reflections. What’s wrong with this picture? And here you are, telling me to stop, look, and listen. Just yesterday (Day 3 of Advent, I believe?) I caught glimpses of a few lovely red leaves. Gonna catch my breath here from running to catch up and begin to slow down. I’ve been looking forward to reading your words here. Blessings, my friend.

  14. I always find “a red leaf” in the thoughts and images you share. Thank you for these Advent posts.

  15. You are welcome, Susan – and thank you for coming by and leaving an encouraging word.