1 From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.
To the Thessalonians’ church that is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace to all of you.
2 We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. 3 This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. 4 Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. 5 We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. 7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place. The news about your faithfulness to God has spread so that we don’t even need to mention it.9 People tell us about what sort of welcome we had from you and how you turned to God from idols. As a result, you are serving the living and true God, 10 and you are waiting for his Son from heaven. His Son is Jesus, who is the one he raised from the dead and who is the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10 (CEB)
(For use with the MORNING Daily Prayer)
One of my favorite family pictures captures an image of life with our then two year old son. My husband is at the breakfast table in his bathrobe, cup of coffee at the ready, and reading the morning newspaper. On the other side of the table sits our toddler. He, too, is wearing pajamas, but he’s added his father’s tennis shoes to his feet and has them propped up on another chair. His milk sits in front of him and he also holds a fully spread open newspaper, looking like the mirror image of his father. Imitation. Our son grew up to enjoy the morning paper over a cup of coffee and part of the reason, I think, is that he learned to model his father in many ways by imitating him as a child. Children grow through imitation – observing and then doing. And so do Christians.
Paul frequently asks those who receive his letters to imitate him (Philemon 3:17; 1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul makes this request not because of his own superior faith, but because Paul seeks to reflect the Christ whose life is truly worthy of imitation. Unlike children who frequently complain with indignation, “He’s copying me!”, Paul shares his gratitude that the Thessalonians understand that reflecting Christ in their lives enables them to serve as models for others who are then drawn to Jesus.
Who has served as a model of the Christian life to you? I think of my parents whose commitment to justice, whose love of the Bible and love of the church helped shape my life. I remember John Trotti, former seminary librarian, whose kindness and hospitality made a space for all he met. I think of a woman in my congregation who lives on a very limited income, but speaks of her commitment to tithing and the gift that has been to her life. I am challenged by a friend who considers herself an introvert, but pushes herself to really engage with people in the changing neighborhood around our church because she feels God is calling her to do just that.
But maybe a more important question to ask during this time of Advent preparation is how are you imitating Christ in your life? Do others see in you ‘work that comes from faith, effort that comes from love, and perseverance that comes from hope in Christ?’ Paul connected the hallmarks of the Christian life – faith, hope and love – with actions and efforts that showed others that those gifts were indeed theirs through the Spirit. But we tend to recoil at the idea that people will be watching us and expecting us to be models of Christ-like action. But Christ’s commandment is clear: Let your light shine before others (Matthew 5:16). The light that we reflect is Christ’s light and it is ours through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So during this Advent season, let part of your preparation be observing and practicing the gifts God shares with us through Christ. In observing the stories of Christ’s encounters with others, imitate his radical welcome. As Christ disturbed the powers of the world that enslaved and dismissed people, imitate the justice he enacted. In observing the love of God for the world, imitate Christ’s vision of the beloved community. Relying on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, let us be imitators of the one who brings joy, peace and wholeness during this Advent season.
A Prayer for the Second Day of Advent
Gracious God, we are grateful for your gift of those who have modeled Christ-like love and service in our lives. Through the gift of your spirit, may our own lives of faith, hope and love point to Christ who comes to bring the peace and wholeness to the world. Amen
Ann Thomas Knox
Director, Instructional Resource Center, Library