What a simple command Paul gives us in tonight’s reading, right? You can’t summarize the life of a Christian much better than “serve the Lord.” Yet, as Paul shows before this phrase and throughout his letters, serving the Lord involves a lot of different tasks, not all of which we can or should do.
Paul recognizes and appreciates the unique nature of each individual in God’s creation, knowing that each of us can follow God, glorify His name, and build up His kingdom on earth with the gifts He gave us. Some of us are prophets, decrying the injustices of our society (boy, are there a lot of them lately) but also revealing the opportunities for progress in them. Some are ministers, reaching out to others to heal and comfort them, not only through the priesthood or religious life but in careers (doctors, therapists, etc.) and daily life (moms, dads, friends, etc.). Some are teachers, helping others to understand the world around them, appreciate its beauty, and work to end its suffering. Some are exhorters, keeping us energized in and committed to our faith. Some are contributors, using their material wealth not to isolate themselves in luxury but to raise up others. Some are administrators and leaders, unifying us all in our common purpose and, if true leaders, serving us as imitators of Christ. A plethora of other talents exists, and each of them contributes importantly to the whole.
One thing that struck me among Paul’s various exhortations: “Anticipate one another in showing honor.” I don’t have direct inside access to Paul’s mind, of course, but I’ll take a stab at what he was trying to convey. We should see those around us as honored guests and approach them as such, recognizing them for their God-given gifts and, most fundamentally and importantly, their God-given dignity and existence as human persons. This doesn’t mean fawning over each other or reducing our interactions to shallow flattery. It means focusing on each person we meet and trying our darndest to show God’s boundless love for them through our words and actions. How can we do this? Through our own gifts graciously given us by God. A good analogy in this season is the Wise Men, who travelled hundreds of miles to see the child Jesus and then gave him precious, costly gifts, gifts fit for a king.* We should see in each other the face of Jesus and offer our very selves as a gift so that we may rejoice in and with him.
Please, Jesus, may we recognize your presence in ourselves and each other, especially in this season of Advent, anticipating one another in showing welcome, compassion, encouragement, and love. ~
*Sorry, Advent purists: I know the Wise Men don’t show up until Epiphany. I thought it was close enough for the comparison to work.
Random side note: One of the Advent practices I’ve adopted is writing down an instance of God’s grace each day, so here is today’s gift.
- I had the opportunity to give a Christmas card to an elderly parishioner at the church just over the Fox River. At 92 years, this woman is still brimming with life, love, faith, and joy, something that I maybe do on the best of days. She is a true inspiration, and I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to meet her earlier this year and now show her a small sign of my gratitude.