Advent is a time of reflection, but it’s also a time of tensions and uncertainty. In its quiet and dark, hope and expectation for new life begin to rise. Amid this swirl of emotions and conflicting feelings, today’s passage reminds us of the basics of our faith. No matter what is happening to us or around us or even inside us, we can follow these simple directions. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks. Listen to the Spirit. Avoid evil.
Life is hard. At some point, everyone has felt that way—not only because of the things that happen to us but because of the uncertainty that permeates our existence. Today’s passage provides us with calm in the middle of a sometimes chaotic world.
It’s also illuminating that the writer of First Thessalonians refers to the “God of peace.” God and God’s Spirit provide us with peace. God desires for us to be healthy and whole, even when situations and circumstances would cause us to feel otherwise. No matter the situation, the Spirit is with us. We’re told that God is faithful.
Finally, we are reminded multiple times in this passage to be alert to the work of the Spirit. The writer tells us not to “suppress the Spirit” (ceb) and not to “brush off Spirit-inspired messages” (ceb). Instead, we should “examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good” (ceb). God is not just present with us; God is speaking to us and working within us. In Advent, we are invited to use this time of quiet and reflection to listen for the words of the Spirit and to cling to what we hear.
Spirit, we pray that you will help us calm our hearts and quiet our minds so that we can listen for your words. We pray for wisdom to understand them and for boldness so that we can put them into practice. Amen.
Isaiah speaks of the day in which God’s Anointed One (Messiah) will bring good news to the poor and hope to the oppressed. Jesus will later read this passage and declare it to be about himself (Luke 4), so we read Isaiah’s prophecy during Advent. The psalmist rejoices that God has restored the fortunes of the people. They have come through a period of difficulty, but God has brought them into a place of joy. Throughout Advent, we also look forward to such rejoicing. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray continually with an attitude of gratitude and rejoicing, and the God of peace will sustain them. In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist repeats the theme from last week—that he is merely the messenger to prepare the way for the Lord.
Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. God is coming. How do Isaiah’s words of praise and justice inspire you to act in response?
Read Psalm 126. How do you celebrate the justice that you have seen come to fruition while hoping for future justice? How does your anticipation of the fullness of justice affect your faith?
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. How can you return to the basics of faith during this Advent season?
Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. How is this Advent season both familiar and new for you? How might simple announcements of Jesus’ coming change your experience of the season?
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