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First Sunday of Advent:

I was walking back to the church after a run and a woman who was standing by her car called out to me. “My car will not start; could you give me a jump.” I said, “Give me a few minutes to get the car and some cables.” She said, “Oh, thank you so much, I asked other people who walked by and they didn’t even look at me.” I thought to myself, why is she so grateful, I haven’t done anything yet. Apparently she was anticipating the future. She was happy because soon I would arrive with a car to help her. She was trilled because soon she would be driving home. It is okay to anticipate the future. I say this because that is what Paul tells us in his letters.

Every letter (except one, Galatians) Paul begins with a thank-you to God. This is true with the letter we just read to the Corinthians. Paul is so happy, ecstatic, in fact, for the sanctification that God will bestow on his Corinthian Church. But just after the thank you to God, the fireworks begin. He digs right into the local church. Paul chastises them because they are terrible. When they come together for the Eucharist the rich go in one room and eat delicious food and drink choice wines while the poor are directed to another room with inferior food. They are divided and are not receiving the lord worthily. Then they are taking each other to court and suing one another. That is not the forgiving spirit of Christ. Then some of them are using their gifts to make themselves look good in front of others while shaming those with lesser gifts. That is not acting like the body of Christ. When I finish the letter, I ask why Paul is so grateful for their sanctification. They are not holy at all. Paul is anticipating God’s graces for them. It is okay to be grateful now for something that will happen in the future.

Paul is not grateful to God for the past, but for the future. He sees that despite all of the atrocities, God will give them the potential for greatness. For Paul, it is okay to anticipate graces in the future. We always look to the past to find reasons to thanks God and this is a noble task. But for Paul, he does not face the past but always the future.

 When we turn to God in gratitude, we often look to the past. We see what good things happened and we thank God for them. However, some people look to the past and do not feel gratitude. A lifer in prison may look to the past and not feel much gratitude. The Elderly in nursing homes who are isolated from their families may look to the past and not feel grateful. People who are diagnosed with incurable illnesses may look to the past and not feel happy. If St. Paul were writing to us today, he would tell us that we are looking in the wrong direction. We need to be looking into the future. God promised that he would reward all of our thankless tasks; God would heal our broken relationship and restore us with his presence. He promised to give us eternal joy, and eternal life.

Remember the woman who could not start up her car. When I first met her she was anxious and sad. Once she looked to the future her whole mood changed. She was happy that soon someone will pull up to her car and give her car battery a jump. Soon she would be turning on her car and driving home. If we really believe that God is faithful to his promises, then it is okay to show it. It is okay to be happy now and to be thankful now.

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