By Jane Williams
A Reading from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
Advent is a season for time-travel. We are encouraged to see the consistent threads of God’s action, as we share the journey of the people of God, living from and towards the transforming action of God in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians is the earliest written Christian document we possess, and already it demonstrates the effect of the good news of Jesus Christ, coming to the Thessalonians in the power of the Holy Spirit, and filling them with joy, even in the current time of suffering.
Paul writes that they have not only received the good news but have themselves become the good news; the reports of their turn away from idols and towards the “living and true God” are doing part of Paul’s evangelistic work for him wherever he goes.
What must this Thessalonian community have looked like, to provoke such a reaction? Perhaps three things stand out: they are living differently: their “imitation” of Paul and the Lord is visible; their life together is also different, as they have become brothers and sisters, children of the one Father who is Jesus’ Father, and so also theirs; and their attitude to the world is different: they are living in hope, not fear, because they know the risen Lord.
It would be nice to think that someone might be able to write such a letter to us this Advent, commending the visibility of our discipleship, traveling, like these Thessalonian Christians, as a community of God’s children towards God’s promised fulfillment. If it seems unlikely that we are seen as good news stories, perhaps that is worthy of reflection and repentance in this season?
Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St. Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Sekondi (West Africa), the Rt. Rev. Alexander Asmah
Diocese of Eastern Michigan, the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley
Diocese of Northwest Texas, the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer