Yesterday, at our online Diocesan Synod, I asked each and every person present to be a messenger for me to all of you. On that last day of the Church’s liturgical year, my message was simply ‘thank you’. Thank you to each and every one of you for all that you are and all that you do, most especially in these demanding and fretful times.
Today, Advent Sunday, we begin a new year. It is the third year in our three year cycle – Year C – the year when the Gospel readings are predominantly from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, as you will have seen, heard or read this morning already (Luke 21.25-36); ‘be on guard…’ ‘Be alert…’ – the Advent themes of joyful yet solemn anticipation and expectation.
It strikes me, however, that our second reading this morning from Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the first ever of his letters to be written, c. 52 A.D., has fortuitously something particular to say to us (as the lectionary usually does).
Certainly, from that reading (1 Thessalonians 3.9-13) I would want again to echo to you his words of gratitude:
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?
And I know too that we all can relate strongly to the desire Saint Paul had in relation to the people of Thessalonika – even though our reasons might be different; our longing to meet face to face:
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face …
Saint Paul’s threefold prayer, set out in that letter, is my prayer for all of us, for you and for me, as we begin this new year and as we set out on our Advent journey, in these times:
First, in verse 11, may God direct our way:
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
Second, in verse 12, may God increase our love for one another and for all:
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.
Third, in verse 13, may God strengthen our hearts in holiness:
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness
Dr Paul Colton
The Right Rev. Dr. Paul Colton
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross