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December 7th – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

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12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for
everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so
that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father
when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (NRSV)

The Biblical text seems to coincide nicely with my answer to the question about preparation for Christmas. The Biblical passage relates to the relationship between Paul and his adherents and the Thessalonians. In verse 6, Paul states that Timothy, who is close to him, has brought good news about the faith and love of the Thessalonians. In verse 12 and 13, Paul expresses his wishes that the love of Thessalonians increases and that their hearts be strengthened so they will be “blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”

Sometimes in our busy and contentious world it seems hard to envision and “increase of love and a strengthening of hearts” so that people will be “blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father”. In my law practice, I have come across a number of examples of people who claim that they cannot get along with family members, let alone demonstrate love “for everyone”. In some instances, siblings would not speak to each other, and siblings would not speak to parents.

When I was a child, my parents tried to emphasize the idea that Christmas is not simply about Santa Claus and presents. One of the ways they did this was to establish a tradition of Christmas visits with relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins). My sisters and I came to know our cousins, and we still see them periodically even though we are somewhat scattered geographically. Christmas was about connecting with, and learning about, family members. Those holiday connections helped to create long-term relationships, and give us a larger family.

If we are able to return to the images associated with the real meaning of Christmas (like the baby in the manger), it is easy to associate those images with concepts of love, blamelessness, and holiness. It is not as easy to associate materialistic images with those concepts. The images and the descriptions of the birth of Jesus by themselves can generate a greater understanding of the concepts of love, blamelessness, and holiness.

Those images and descriptions convey a story of an epochal event, and as such they have a unique ability to affect the individual who hears or sees them. It is of course easier to understand those images and descriptions if the individual has a good sense of values with which to interpret them. But the presentation of those images and descriptions certainly has an effect on the way they are received.

In essence the world needs to prepare for the rehearsal of the Christmas story once again because that story contains so many lessons about such fundamental concepts, like love, blamelessness and holiness. We need to learn, and re-learn repeatedly, such lessons.

Thomas Buess

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