An Advent Journey: Stop, Look, Listen – Day 6

“I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other — ‘We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!’ — suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman. 

But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love and the hope of salvation.

God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, The Message

Generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of apocalyptic literature. Don’t like dystopian novels (except for Margaret Atwood), am easily pushed to metaphor fatigue by the book of Revelation. There are days when I really, really wish Jesus had not talked as much as he did about The Last Days. 

And then there are the letters to the Christians at Thessalonica. Written early in Paul’s ministry, they show us more clearly than anything else that the early church believed themselves to be living in the last days, at least initially. And for some reason, that has always bothered me a little. 

Or it used to.

However. . . this passage, this one right before us today, on the first Friday of Advent 2012, this one I have come to love. A lot. In fact, I believe it contains some of the most important teaching of all the epistolary writing in the entire New Testament. Why? Because it tells us how to live while we wait. 

And we are always waiting, aren’t we? Waiting for something, someone, some time. Here is a definition of the verb “to wait”: ‘to stay in place in expectation of; to remain stationary in readiness or expectation; to look forward expectantly; to be ready and available.’ (Courtesy of Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

While we wait — in a spirit of expectation and readiness and availability — Paul instructs us to: 
      *remember who we are
      *keep our eyes open
      *be smart
      *dress for the occasion
      *speak words of encouragement and hope to one another

And it is that last one that resonates with something deep inside: encourage one another. Offer good words, hopeful words, loving words. Now that’s the kind of apocalyptic writing and thinking and living I can get excited about. 

How do you encourage others? And how are you encouraged as you wait?

Lord, you know how weary I am with doom-mongers — always a discouraging word to be heard, always a fearful worldview to be touted, always an us vs. them mentality. I am exhausted by that attitude. Especially when I feel it creeping into me, into my thought life — even into my language. Help me to read these good words from Paul again and again, especially when I feel discouraged by life, by the church, by the world. And help me to choose, every day, to push through the discouraging word and find an encouraging one; to make the move from passive resignation to active anticipation, trusting that there are good things yet to come.

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  1. Dear Diana – Amen! And how seriously you are living out these words – ‘encourage one another’. Thank you!

  2. Kim Sullivan says

    Indeed. Love this.

  3. Thank you, Sue – and right back at you on that one.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Kim!