Be Strong -- An Advent Reflection
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Common English Bible)
This is supposed to be a season full of joy and happiness. Whether you say, “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas,” the sentiment is one of joyous celebration. But for many in our world this sentiment seems rather unrealistic. These are, for many, days full of struggles. Whether it’s the struggle to find a job, put food on the table, or shelter over one’s head, these are difficult times. We may wonder – is there any hope? Or, to whom can I go?
Here in the closing verses of the Ephesian letter, we hear the call to “be strong in the Lord.” Yes, there are struggles, but they are not struggles with blood and flesh, but with spiritual forces. This may not be the way we usually view the world, but the letter reminds us that there is often more there than eye perceives. Therefore, we must be prepared – that is, after all, one of the principle messages of the Advent season – be prepared, be awake, stay on the alert – and here the admonition is to be strong. The way in which we do this is by putting on the “full armor of God.” Using the uniform of a Roman soldier as a guide, we’re told to stand firm and clothe and arm ourselves with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.
These may not be easy times, but there are resources at our disposal that can help sustain us and empower us to make a difference in the world. The story of Christmas, after all, is one of transformation. God is made present in our world, so that the world might be made new. So, be strong, stand firm, and face that struggle head on in the Spirit of God.