Thursday of Advent I – I Thessalonians 3:9-13

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

We had not been married all that many years when we got a letter one summer day. It was from the Internal Revenue Service of the United States. I set that one aside when I was sorting through the mail. I really did not want to open that. I did my own taxes, which was always a bit of an adventure. My record keeping skills and mathematics are not entirely to be trusted. On top of that, the rules which govern clergy taxes are byzantine. I was sure I was being audited.

So, it with more than a little trepidation my wife and I sat at the table with the letter opener in hand and slit open that envelope. Imagine my surprise when a check for over $1500 slipped out of that envelope into my hand. That was quite a lot of money for these newlyweds. I had been serving a vacancy and hence we had a little more income. It appeared that when I was supposed to subtract something, I had added. I should never be an accountant. The IRS computers caught it and refunded the money.

The folks in Thessalonica had only met Paul a short while ago. His preaching had so stirred up the local synagogue that they drove him out of town. When things cooled off a little, Paul sent Timothy to check up on them and through him they asked Paul some questions. Most of them about the end of the world. This letter is Paul’s reply. Like most people of those days and this day, they were afraid of the end of world. They dreaded it. They could sense that God was not happy with what His world had become. His audit of the books would be severe. But look carefully at what Paul says here. He is trying to make them less afraid about the end of the world in this first part of his letter. Do you hear what he says? Jesus establishes our hearts blameless in holiness before God at the coming of Christ. God’s judgment, his stern condemnation of this world is not for us. Christ has made us blameless. So, rejoice this Advent season and look forward to the coming of Jesus. You are blameless before God. A check of far greater value has slid out of this letter from Paul.

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