In these opening lines of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we see the apostle’s deep desire for that beloved community. Paul writes in order to encourage the church to live the way of Jesus, to be strengthened in its witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to develop the spiritual gifts among the members. Evidently, the church is dealing with power struggles, judgmental attitudes, doctrinal disputes, and disparities of treatment between rich and poor members.
In a city like Corinth—a large, wealthy, diverse urban center—power, money, and knowledge are hot commodities. But Paul speaks of being enriched not by money and power but by Christ Jesus. The gospel of Jesus radically shifts the focus and invites the church to turn from “idols” (1 Cor. 12:2) and toward the Spirit of God who is both source and activator of what is worth the most: spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-5). In this letter Paul reminds the church of the great dignity and value of every gift and every person. The Corinthians find themselves in the time between Advents; they “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul advises them that they have the gifts and grace necessary for this time of waiting, and he admonishes them to demonstrate unity in their fellowship while they wait.
As we enter into the Advent time of waiting, Paul’s words remind us that Christ Jesus is already among us, gracing us with gifts to share for the common good. It is in the waiting time that we receive the opportunity to welcome the love of Christ to transform us; to free us from rancor, judgment, injustice, and conflict; and to make of us a community that offers the world a sign of the faith, hope, and love that is our true calling.
Generous Spirit, open my hands and heart to receive—and share—your love and compassion. Amen.
Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you found yourself in a disorienting setting? What was your cry to God? What response to your lament did you seek?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What in you needs the restoration that only God can give?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How might you become a means of reconciliation in your family, your work setting, your city?
• Read Mark 13:24-37. What especially do you long for this Advent-Christmas? How can you participate in the transforming love of Christ to manifest a reconciling spirit?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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