I love the Rev. Glen Scrivener’s blog, The King’s English, but because he blogs through the Scriptures consecutively, his posts are not always tied to the liturgical season. Yesterday’s entry “A Labour of Love,” however, was specifically tied to Advent. It’s based on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 1 where he talks about waiting for Christ’s return, and the believers labour of love which flows out of their hope in Christ:
But how do we wait? Like the picture above? Scanning the sky for signs of His coming? Scouring the newspapers for clues to His advent?
We’re called to be on the welcoming committee, but many want to be in the planning group. It’s something Jesus refuses to bring us in on. Just before He ascended His followers wanted to get an eschatological timetable from Him:
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
They wanted to know times and seasons. Jesus says ‘That’s not your job! Your job is to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.’
We do not wait by worrying about when. We wait by witnessing. (emphasis added)
It’s interesting how Acts 1 continues. Jesus ascends to heaven, the disciples are – understandably, you’d think – gazing into the heavens. But angels appear to tell them to stop gawping at the skies (Acts 1:10-11). The posture of the church, as we wait for Christ, is not stationary, faces heavenwards. Instead our posture is shaped by Acts 1:8 – we’ve been given our marching orders and out we go – to the ends of the earth as witnesses of Christ.
And so in the same chapter that tells us of the Thessalonians “waiting for God’s Son from heaven” Paul also gives us this description of their current life:
“[We remember] without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
Here again is Paul’s famous trio: faith, hope and love. Our faith looks back to Christ’s first coming and it inspires work. Our hope looks forward to Christ’s second coming and brings patience. And love is the atmosphere of our present lives – confident of the salvation Christ has won, and expectant of the cosmic redemption He will bring. Now we are free from having to build our own identity or secure our own future. Now we can love. And this love will be a busy, active thing. It is a “labour of love.”
We’re not working towards our vindication, our joy, our purpose in life. We’re working from that sure gift from Christ. Therefore Christian work is a “labour of love.”
Are your Christian efforts “a labour of love”? If they’re feeling more of a “millstone around your neck“, then these aren’t the kind of labours that will honour Jesus. Let me suggest that you may have forgotten the other two elements of the trio. Remember, we have a sure faith, grounded in Christ’s first coming. And we have a certain hope, expectant of His second coming. If you want to rekindle the love: look again to Christ this Advent – His faultless work for you and your expectant wait for Him. A fresh vision of Jesus turns labour into “a labour of love.”
As an “Advent extra,” when I read the title of Glenn’s post “Labour of Love,” I couldn’t help but think of a wonderful Andrew Peterson duet with Jill Phillips of the same title, from his amazing album Behold the Lamb of God – one of the best CCM albums ever. Here’s a video version of the song below, enjoy!