Scripture Reading — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“The virgin will . . . give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). — Matthew 1:23
In northern parts of the world some churches hold a “Blue Christmas” service on or near December 22, the shortest (and saddest) day of the year (the day with the fewest hours of sunlight). “Blue” services are meant to remind us that not everyone embraces the Christmas season with eager anticipation. Some people find themselves in the midst of loneliness and grief. Christmas reminds them of empty places at the table, of people who are not coming home, and of loved ones who have died.
In our reading today the apostle Paul offers encouragement to people who are grieving because some in their fellowship have fallen asleep in death. The circumstances of their sorrow might be different from ours, but the comfort Paul offers is the promise of Christmas. At Christmas we celebrate that, in Jesus, God is with us. Paul uses the word “with” several times, saying, “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Also, “we who are still alive . . . will be caught up together with them.” And most important: “We will be with the Lord forever.” Many of the details in this reading may puzzle us, but being with God is the heart of the matter. Our believing loved ones are with Jesus, who is “God with us.” May we be encouraged and comforted by these words.
Comforting God, you promise to wipe every tear from our eyes in that day when there will be no more death. Help us to be comforted now, we pray, and to bring your comfort to those who grieve. In your name, Amen.