One of our sister churches every Christmas season has a Blue Christmas service. During the holidays, while the world is filled with joy, some of us can really struggle. We miss loved ones who passed on, some of whom died in the last 12 months, and this is our first Christmas without them. Some of us watch families posting joyful pictures on social media, or on their holiday picture cards, and it gets under our skin because we don’t feel like our family is as joyful as what we see on those photos. Maybe we have broken relationships in our families. Maybe we are feeling blue, down, low, in the middle of everyone else’s joy.
How are you feeling this Christmas? Are you feeling blue? This Advent season as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, our theme is Ready for the Return. We’re studying 2 Thessalonians as Paul teaches the Thessalonian Christians how to be ready for Jesus’ return. Turn to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 13. Paul is writing to Christians who have a very blue situation in their lives. They have been facing persecution. Paul wants them to be ready for Jesus’ return, even in the middle of a difficult time.
In verse 13 Paul sets a tone for this passage that will carry through the end of the chapter. He starts by saying that he ought to give thanks to God for them. If someone says to you, “I thank God for you,” that feels amazing, right? But it gets even better. Notice what Paul calls the Christians:
“Brethren who are loved by the Lord.”
That’s awesome! Paul wants the Thessalonian Christians to identify themselves as people who are loved by God. He just declares it. He speaks it into their hearts and minds. “You are people who are loved by God.” Sometimes, perhaps many times, we need to hear these actual words spoken over us. So hear this, it is true: we are people who are loved by God.
On the one hand, that is basic. It’s Christianity 101. We could quote the most famous verse in the New Testament, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s love for us is so foundational that the Veggie Tales videos always finished with the line, “Remember, kids, God made you special, and he loves you very much.” If there was one thing that the Veggie Tales people wanted kids to know it was that God loves them.
The reality, though, is that many of us might not feel God’s love. Or we can go through spells when it seems God is distant. Or we can look around the pain and disaster in the world and think, “How could a loving God allow this?” Paul knows the Thessalonian Christians could be asking that question, especially because they are going through persecution. I wouldn’t be surprised if Timothy came back from his visit to Thessalonica saying, “Paul, they have it difficult there. They are wondering if God really is as loving as you taught them.” Whether they said that or not, Paul wants to affirm the truth, that God is a loving God.
I believe that all of us need to sit and dwell on that singular truth. “God loves me. I am a beloved child of God.” Is it basic? Yes. But we need to dwell on the basics. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you! Sometimes we need to say something over and over, day after day, for it to sink down into our soul.