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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

The Anticipation of the Coming

Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 NKJV

Christmas is just around the corner, and I see on the streets many people in a frenzy, forced into real feats to get from place to place, store to store. Soon to be added are the marathons of house to house, table to table, relatives and friends... After all, we should be better off this time of year, at least that's what I hear, and I have to smile thinking about how far the reality is then from the words. Certainly the willingness and commitment to do something good, to express a sincere feeling and wink at those in need is appreciable. What should not happen is to make them actions equal to those of a young groundhog or boyscout, and thus only fulfilling a duty. I believe that good cannot be relegated to a duty to be fulfilled, as if our paltry attentions these days are able to bestow everlasting satisfaction. This is a way of saying from which I have long distanced myself, joining those who have committed themselves to bringing Jesus back to the center of daily living. The words that the angel announces to the shepherds are clear: great joy is connected with the birth of the Christ (Luke 2:10-11). Without Him there is no celebration, neither in the air nor in the heart. Decorations and lights will not suffice if we are shrouded in clouds of various worries. All forms of masquerade and hypocrisy will last very little.

The Thessalonian believers come to our rescue. In writing to them the apostle Paul praises them for preaching the gospel and echoing the faith in Macedonia and Achaia. We are dealing with a concrete faith, accompanied by action. Indeed, it is their brotherly love that bears witness to this. To those who were doing so much joyfully despite the afflictions and sufferings they were facing, the apostle urges them to do more, to "walk to please God," since "this is the will of God: your sanctification." Paul's words should be the vademecum for living this period in an accomplished manner, pointing each one to "possess his vessel in holiness and honor, not with disordered passions." Clearly, each will know how to examine his own living and discern what is honorable from what is disordered. To a community that as yet had no interest and/or need to celebrate the nativity of Christ comes the exhortation to love one another (v. 9), for the Christian always does. What the Thessalonians truly look forward to is the fulfillment of the promise inherent in the Lord's return, when "we shall be rapt together with them on the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." This is the biblical certainty that brings consolation to our hearts.

At the origin of the feast of Christmas in the second century was not that sentiment of love, which can be seasoned in all kinds of sauces according to religion, but rather a theological need: it was to respond to those who claimed that Jesus did not have a divine nature and only at the baptism in the Jordan was he filled with it. The choice of the feast, though cast on a pagan reality of the Empire, allowed for the declaration that God had become man in Christ from the beginning, and that that child was the Son of God even before his birth. Recall the episode of the visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-43). Nothing else then but to turn our eyes to Jesus, to that manger, to the choir of angels, to the visit of the Wisemen. This should be our real concern, but that always ends up among the last. He came to open for us the gates of Heaven, to help us live this existence as a viaticum to His kingdom, where we will be when He returns. What are we waiting for? Whatever it is, there will be no good wishes so effective as to give it to us. From the bottom of my heart, I pray for you, that you will decide to cling to Him like the branches to the vine, and be able to realize concretely that "My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11). Only His joy will enable you to make yourself a neighbor to those who struggle the most, those who are lonely or marginalized, to the point of loving to the point of giving your life for your friends (vv. 12-13), just as He did.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan n. 52

December 18, Obadiah; Revelation 9

December 19, Jonah; Revelation 10

December 20, Micah 1-3; Revelation 11

December 21, Micah 4-5; Revelation 12

December 22, Micah 6-7; Revelation 13

December 23, Nahum; Revelation 14

December 24, Habakkuk; Revelation 15

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