November 30, 2008
1st Sunday of Advent (B)
Decorating the house, writing cards, shopping for gifts, Christmas tree hunting, grocery lists, preparations for guests or preparations for travel… I know, a million things need to get done within only a limited number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Busyness, lots of busyness, and all these things need our attention in addition to our already busy schedules.
I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I just need a few moments of retreat, some designated time to reflect on what all these preparations are designed to celebrate. It seems like the Advent season gets taken over by the hustle and bustle of things that need to get done; and in the process, our attention to Christ often gets relegated to the Sunday before Christmas or the Christmas Eve service-if there’s time to go.
As we begin the season of Advent, I’m reminded of an illustration in a book by Marva Dawn that speaks to my heart about my own obsession with busyness and its potential for distraction from worship. Dawn describes a scene from the comic strip “Rose Is Rose” that demonstrates what I think our attitude should be as we experience the Advent season.
Dawn writes: “One day the strip showed Rose and her little boy Pasquale walking together at evening in the snow-Rose with a big smile on her face. Pasquale looked more serious. In the second frame he stood by himself with his eyes brightly wide open and his mouth shaped into an O. In the third frame he peered intently up into the falling snow, while Rose, several paces ahead and smaller in the drawing, glanced back at him with a questioning look. Her head leaned into the fourth frame to ask, ‘What happened?’ and Pasquale reverently replied, ‘The quiet is so deep I got stuck in it!’” (A Royal “Waste” of Time, 71).
Is there time for you to get stuck in the quiet of Advent? Will you marvel at the profundity of the perfect revelation of God coming to us in the quiet humility of human birth? Is there time for you to stand by yourself, with eyes and mouth wide open, stuck in amazement of God sacrificing His only begotten Son? Are you looking for opportunities to release yourself from the pressures of Christmas things so you can be enamored with the person of Christ? Will there be time this Advent season, or will we just be busy?
In our text today we’re looking at Paul’s opening prayer in his first letter to the Corinthian church. Paul writes to a community desperately in need of correction and instruction in order to maintain unity and build maturity for God’s glory. And he opens with a reminder of God’s faithfulness. He’s amazed by grace, a grace that enriches the Corinthian Christians and a grace that equips them for ministry until Christ’s Second Advent.
I. Grace enriches us (
Verse 3 opens with a salutation of grace and peace, a common expression for Paul that functions both as a reminder and as a segue to his prayer. He reminds his audience that God is the source of grace and peace and that they are the recipients of that grace.
Grace becomes the great theme of Paul’s thanksgiving prayer. He’s enamored with it, amazed by it, and begins to thank God for how grace has enriched the community to whom he’s writing. It was grace that brought the message of Christ to the community; it was grace that confirmed the message-that transformed their lives.
It was grace that enriched this community; it was grace that brought them out of their poor and underprivileged positions and into the family of the living God. This is a grace worthy of our consideration, of our amazement. For as the apostle reminded his audience later in chapter 1: “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (
II. Grace equips us (
Not only should we be amazed by grace because of its enriching quality but also because it equips us to live godly lives in the present.
Paul was again amazed by a grace that resulted in the Corinthian church “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (v. 7). The Spirit of God provided this community with everything they needed to fulfill their calling until Christ’s return. And the Spirit continues to equip us with the gifts we need to be Christ to one another and the world around us until He comes again. That’s an amazing grace-a grace worth marveling at.
Will you take time this Advent season to be amazed by grace, a grace that enriches us beyond our wildest imaginations and a grace that equips us until the promises of God are fulfilled in their entirety?