How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
What do Guns n’ Roses, NSYNC, Fleetwood Mac and N.W.A. have in common?
They are all bands embarking on reunion tours.
Seems like everybody is jumping on that BAND wagon! (Get it?…BAND wagon!)
I must admit when NKOTB (that’s “New Kids On the Block” for those of you too young or with too much musical taste to know what NKOTB stands for) announced their reunion tour, my heart did skip a beat… for a second. I outgrew them after about a year, but during that year I planned my whole life with Jonathan, one of its members, during English and typing class.
What got me thinking about this was the first New Testament reading for Advent. The Thessalonians reading is so full of joy and excitement and love.
I thought to myself, “This sounds like something someone would write before coming to visit for Thanksgiving or Christmas!”
Which then took my twisted mind to: What if the angels who came to the shepherds on that first Christmas night got the gang together for a reunion tour?! What if they wrote the church today letting them know they are going to be stops on their tour?! This sounds like something the angels could write!
“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”
Can you imagine?! I mean, they may be missing one or two from the whole “host of angels,” but most of them would be there.
I wonder how the experiences would compare?
Back then the stage was a field.
Today in our churches we have state-of-the-art sound systems, lighting, and a projector and screen (that almost split the church when we first brought it up – but now people really enjoy it!). Their angel toes won’t freeze because it is indoors and, unlike those shepherds watching their baaa-ing sheep at night, we have “cry rooms” and nurseries for any other little creatures who try to compete with an angelic “Glory to God in the Highest.”
Back then the audience was made up of those uneducated shepherds (God bless them), who didn’t have a clue about what was going on.
Today, the church is filled with all sorts refined, educated men and women who are familiar with the age-old story of God’s redemptive act in the incarnation of the Messiah; who can engage in historical-critical debates about the different possible dates for when this event may have happened and IF it happened at all; and who can expound in the theological significance of the virgin birth, the angelic apparitions and the “partridge in a pear tree.”
That’s right, back then an audience of poor shepherds who gave the angels their undivided attention.
Well, once everyone turns off their cell phones and stops recording on their iPhones and iPads… and once they stop asking each other if they set the DVR to record the Christmas special… and wondering if they picked up that extra gift for Aunt Rose (who may or may not come, but you don’t want to be empty handed)… and once they stop asking, “Did you turn off the oven?”
…And once we stop thinking, “I can’t believe we had to give up our regular pew for that family we only see at Christmas and Easter!” Or musing, “They came together? I heard they were getting a divorce.” Or wondering, “Did I get enough presents? I mean the tree was only half-covered by the stack of gifts.” Or again, “Did I turn off the oven?”
…THEN we can give the angels our undivided…
Oh wait… we also have to stop checking our watches, wondering how much longer the service is going to last.
Pay attention to the lyrics of the Advent and Christmas hymns you hear year after year. See what good news of great joy they may bring.
Listen – I mean really listen – to the stories in the Scriptures. See what signs they may be to you as you seek joy, hope, peace and love this season.
And be present! Be present with your loved ones so you have memories that keep them close even when they are far a way. Be present with those whom God places in your path – the coworker, the person behind you in line, your neighbor, your dry cleaning lady, your barista, the young person at the drive-through window – be present to those whom God has placed in your path. You never know where Jesus will decide to show up or when the Lord will decide to use you to be Christ in the world.
Be present to God’s presence in the sparkly and the plain, the holy and the mundane, the hustle and the bustle… as well as the silence of the season.
I always assumed that the angels were beamed right back up to heaven once they delivered their praise, but verse 15 starts, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,” which makes me wonder if they stuck around for an encore.
“We love you, Bethlehem! Now, you don’t know this one, but in a few millennia it is going to be huge! Hit it! …Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plain!”
Lolimarta Ros Reiter, or as most of her friends know her, Loli, ministers alongside the fine folks at The Presbyterian Church of Seffner outside of Tampa, FL. She was born in Puerto Rico but has lived on the mainland since she was 9. Her daughter Isabel (10 years old) wants you to know her mom is funny; Olivia (7 years old) wants you to know she likes to talk about God…a lot; and John, her husband, wants you to know that she is the best wife, ever…Such a smart man!