My recent practice of expanding the Revised Common Lectionary readings continues today as I extend the selection from Colossians, adding an extra three verses at the end to cover chapter 1,verses 3-23.
As with many of the New Testament epistles (or letters), the opening is a positive one. Paul the likely author has a splendid practice of giving the good news first by praising the efforts of his audience. The timing is splendid, and we’d do well to focus on the light and life he shares. Perhaps we, too, can help build people upwards before we introduce the challenges. This is a wonderful pattern because we share what’s right before talking about weaknesses.
Paul starts by lifting up the inspiring faith of the Colossians. They have a hope that is bearing fruit by creating a wonderful presence of God in the world. Paul wants to build on the faith of the Colossians by encouraging them to continue doing such a wonderful job.
Paul does more than simply heap praise. He commits to praying for the Colossians, specifically to help them grow in God’s knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Further, Paul wants his brothers and sisters of the faith to become strong through God’s magnificent power. In so doing, Paul assures them that they will experience the joy, patience and endurance to live victorious lives.
That the Colossians have been transferred from the realm of darkness into light is also a claim we can share. The redemption from our sins liberates us to be all that God calls us to be. Paul reveals his theology of the Son by describing Jesus’ supremacy, through whom and for whom the universe was created.
Paul reminds the Colossians that they were alienated before God reconciled them through Jesus’ transformative power. Yet, life is far from over and there is much work to do. Perhaps this is why Paul encouraged them not to take things for granted. He reminded the Colossians that they are washed from sin’s penalty and are now blameless, “provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard. . .” (Colossians 3:23a).
What does all of this have to do with us today? Every promise, every encouragement, and every responsibility remains. Like those ancient Christians in Colossae, we need God’s love and truth to empower us in this life. As with the people of old, we need to be reminded of the same basic facts of our faith so that we don’t slip into apathy or worse.
One of the most difficult aspects of our Christian life concerns that which we are supposed to do, how to act and live. As with the Christians of old, we must struggle to advance the good that we’ve been given. And inasmuch as our church functions as a place to help us realize God’s plan, it is not supposed to function as much as a relaxing resort as much as it is an equipping outpost, assisting us to make a great positive difference first in ourselves and then in the world.
In this last Sunday before advent we are reminded of the great lead-up to Christmas and the birth of Jesus. What better way to enter this season of birth and renewal than to perceive it as our annual journey of revitalization. A new year will soon be upon us and we can match our good intentions with the annual calendar as we rev-up the cycle of new beginnings.
Love, joy, peace and hope can result from our steadfast faith in God. Don’t let the season pass you by. Grasp who and what you are in God’s magnificent kingdom. There’s no better work than that which comes from our living in God, through God, and for God. Determine to not let anything hold you back. Not your age, not your past, and certainly not for any lack of purpose. We are here to practice our faith through working hard, having fun, and receiving and sharing God’s love and truth. Let us labor tirelessly as we pass our church onto a new generation who will take what we’ve labored for and keep it strong and healthy. Are you ready to do what you can?
My prayer for all of us is that we would embrace the love, joy, peace and hope of advent and thereby demonstrate to the world how we have been redeemed. Make it your goal to strengthen your church—the body of Christ—by how you will embrace God’s presence. Don’t allow negativity, pessimism or any dark and discouraging thing to undermine the beauty of God shining through you. Will you join with me?