An Advent reflection for Sunday, December 3rd by Rev. Julia Styles
Lectionary reading for 12/3/2023: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
Selected passage for reflection: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 The Message
3 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time when we wait expectantly for the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, the scripture selections for this liturgical year focus primarily on the return of Jesus. The truth is that we have been waiting a long time for Christ's return, and while waiting, we have become anxious and fought among ourselves, often forgetting the cornerstone of our faith.
Two thousand years ago, the church in Corinth anxiously anticipated Jesus's return, and while waiting, they too became quarrelsome and divided on what it meant to follow in the ways of Christ. Four years prior to writing this letter, Paul had spent 18 months with the church of Corinth, and he had a lot to say on how its members should comport themselves. What drew me to this passage, however, was that before any instruction or correction, Paul expressed gratitude and encouragement.
As a spiritual director, I work with many clergy and lay leaders, and one thing is clear: we could all use a bit more encouragement. Too often, when a Christian leader leaves a church community, (whether it be a change in roles, a change of location, or a change of heart), they experience radio silence from the people they poured into for so long. They wonder, did I ever really matter, or did people just use me for what I could give them?
So today, I want to rephrase Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth and address it to you.
Greetings of peace, joy, hope, and love during this Advent Season,
I am writing you this note because I wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you. And when you come to mind, a smile spreads across my face, and my heart fills with gratitude. I want you to know that I see the light of God shining through you! I have witnessed how God blesses others through your ministry. It is so evident all the work that God has done in your life.
I know we are far apart, and you don’t hear from me that often, but I needed you to know:
You matter to me, and more importantly, you matter to God.
God loves you!
I know you are dealing with conflict in the church. I empathize with your disappointment; it is hard when people you trust let you down. I imagine there are days you feel alone and misunderstood and perhaps wonder if being a part of the church is worth the struggle. Even in disappointment and despair, please know you are not alone. God is right alongside you to support you and guide you. Remember, God is the one who got you started on this spiritual adventure in the first place. God loves you and will never give up on you. Never forget that.
Julia, your sister in Christ
As we eagerly await the return of our messiah Jesus Christ, may we also look for Christ in the people around us. During advent, may we eagerly seek out the faith, joy, peace, and love that are reflected in one another.
Take a moment to reflect on those you are grateful for: a friend, a pastor, a teacher, or a mentor. Perhaps these are people that you no longer see on a regular basis. As you reflect on each of those people, say a prayer of gratitude for them, and then consider writing them a note of encouragement. Let them know that you are thinking of them, and how grateful you are for their presence in your life.
God, during these dark times, we eagerly await your light! Help us to see the light of Christ in one another. Just as your holy scripture is an encouragement to us, may our words be an encouragement to others. Amen.
About the Author
Julia is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a decade working in short-term mission mobilization and cross-cultural training, Julia found a new calling in spiritual direction and leadership coaching. Learn more about Spiritual Direction and sign up to receive a free introductory session at www.spiritualdirectionwithjulia.com. Julia is ordained through the Fellowship of Christian Ministries and is honored to co-chair their bi-annual conference in Atlanta in July 2024. Julia lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Derek and children Zoe and Jakob.