Monday, December 03, 2012

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.