love, hope and habit

"May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you." - 1 Thessalonians 3:12

I read this verse this morning, and I'll confess - my first thought was, "what does this verse have to do with Advent?"  But as I reflected on this verse a little longer, it became clear to me that it might actually have everything to do with Advent.  And here's why.

This week, we're thinking about Advent hope, right?  The hope that we have because Christ was born - because "the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, The Message).  Now think for a minute about the people you know who know this hope.  What kind of people are they?  What adjectives would you use to describe them?  (What adjectives do you think should describe them?)

People of hope have a positive outlook.  They're the staff you meet in the store in the middle of the Christmas rush who take the time to smile at you, and make you feel like you're their only customer, even tho there's ten people in line behind you.  They're the people who ring bells for the Salvation Army on street corners and wish all the people who don't seem to care a merry Christmas anyway.  They're the people who get really bad news and yet try their level best to find a bright spot in the middle of complete horrible situations.  They're the non-complainers.  They're the people with whom you find yourself wanting to spend time because just talking to them is incredibly life-giving.  They love you.

Are you a person of hope?

I'll admit it.  I am - but I don't always act like it.  But my attention was captured today by the words in the prayer from today's Uncluttered Heart post.  The idea that hope is something that I actually need to practice hit home.  When you practice something, you usually tend to get better at it over time.

So what will it take for me to practice hope today?  And in so doing, will I "increase and abound in love" for people, as so many people of hope have abounded in love for me?  Yes.

So that Scripture really does have everything to do with Advent...

One of the things I love most about Advent is that it isn't just about waiting for Christmas and remembering the Story.  It's also about remembering that the Story isn't over yet.  Here's another passage, written by the apostle John, that has everything to do with Advent, too:

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look, look!  God has moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women!  They're His people; He's their God.  He'll wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone - all the first order of things gone." (Revelation 21:3-4, The Message)

This gives me so much hope.  And today, I'm going to remember it, and with His help, try to love Him and love people better simply by practicing a positive, hopeful outlook - no matter what this day may bring.  And if I keep at it, one day being hopeful will simply be habit.  (I'm hoping for it, anyway.)  ;)

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