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But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
St. Paul had arrived at Thessalonica in the winter of 49, around this time of year. Paul had just struggled mightily in Philippi. His rights as a citizen were violated and he was mistreated and now ended up in Thessalonica.
Unfortunately, Paul did not have it much better in Thessalonica. He was forced to leave in the face of severe opposition. Yet his time there was blessed. He founded a fledging Church. On the down side, he didn’t have time to fully teach the members of this young Church. After leaving, and meeting Timothy in Athens, he sent Timothy back for a check-in visit.
The letter to the Thessalonians, authored in about 51, two years after he had to leave, was intended to offer support and learning to this young Church, and to reassure it in the essentials of the faith.
A vital, moment in a young (or even not so young) life comes when we are confronted with that life altering choice. Do I turn left or right? Do I go forward or turn back? Do I check out and slink away, or do I stand up with my head held high? Jesus put that choice to us. Paul put it to Thessalonica. We are asked in our youth, and we are asked today – How will we decide?
Today we enter Advent, the season of waiting, preparation, and expectation. Jesus reminds us of what we are waiting for, preparing for, and expecting. It is His return. Will I be ready to stand up and raise my head at His return? Will I be prepared? Am I even expecting Him or have I checked out?
Paul taught the young Church at Thessalonica and us today about those choices. They are before us because Jesus promised His return in glory. The angels on the Mount of the Ascension attested to it: “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”
So what are we to do, we in our youth and our not so youth? The Church at Thessalonica took Paul’s advice. They did what was necessary. They lived in constant and urgent expectation. They not only lived it, but also shared expectation so others might be saved. Time to stand up and do likewise.