Today's Lectionary Text
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet
“in a very little while,
But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
For me it happens every year, usually in mid-December. This year it happened last weekend. I hit the wall. Christmas loses its joy and becomes something I must get through. The Christmas season has been a busy time at work for most of my last 30 years; either as a retail manager or a pastor. We all have times in life when we feel worn down. We’re physically and mentally tired and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The chance to rest and renew seems an eternity away.
In this passage from Hebrews, the author is encouraging a fledgling church at a time they must have been feeling worn out. Abuse, persecution, and losing possessions to thieves will do that. In “Interpretation,” Thomas G. Long says the phrase “you endured a hard struggle with suffering” literally translates as “you endured a contest of suffering.” It is a subtle change, but Long says it makes the language reminiscent of athletes. For athletes, endurance is something that is sought after, not a burden they bear. This can be a season which requires endurance.
We are entering Advent’s fourth quarter. Maybe we’re tired, discouraged, and playing through some injuries. Like athletes in the fourth quarter of a game, we may need some encouragement. The author of Hebrews offers encouragement by pulling language from Habakkuk and Isaiah, telling his audience to keep pushing on and not hold back. Our encouragement is Christ will come.
Whether you’re feeling going into the fourth quarter, Christmas will come. God will meet you where you are. If you’re looking forward to the next few days with anticipation and joy, or if you’re putting your head down and getting the work done to get through it—either way we will still reach the finish line and celebrate God’s entry into our world.
--Pastor Michael Turner
Reading-Osage City UMCs
Prayer for Reflection
Holy God, in our busyness we can work so hard to make Christmas perfect we lose sight of what is important. Help us encourage one another as we do the work of preparing to celebrate the gift of your Son Jesus. Amen.
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