Advent Week 1: I Corinthians 1:3-9
Click on the box above to hear It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Wednesday, December 6
Professor Eric Wall
Grace to you and peace. If this were email, the subject line might read “Paul: Grace and Peace” yet it is God’s grace and peace, not his own, that Paul hands on. So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait, he writes. Paul’s letter had a slower travel time than we know today; but whether letter, email, or instant message, Paul, knowing that waiting is not quick, writes of a kind of equipping: being strengthened, not lacking in gifts. Being equipped for ministry—for the whole life of faith—is, in a sense, being equipped for waiting and patience, for what can feel like an utterly slow transformation.
In Chapter 12 of this same letter to the Corinthians, Paul will pass on yet another gift from God: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.” In Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, in Lent-Easter, and at all times, the gift offered to us: the gift of grace and peace and strength and knowledge which is the Self of God.
The hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is rooted in a set of prayers (the “O Antiphons”) for the culmination of Advent, but the hymn is often a sung entry into this season. In its seven stanzas (Glory to God, Hymn 88), we sing our prayer for holy gifts: Wisdom, Key, Dayspring, and the Desire that will “fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.” Perhaps Paul’s letter and this hymn are helping to hand on holy gifts: Wisdom, Key, Desire, Grace, Peace, Strength, and Self: “God with us.”