Advent Door 6: Extending Blessing

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 6 Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Scripture Summary:
Paul offers prayer and blessing to the Thessalonian believers: that God would bring them together soon, that their love for each other and for all people would increase, and that God would strengthen their hearts in holiness.

Offering a blessing is an act of profound hope. In blessing one another, we recognize and ally ourselves with the presence of God who is ever working to bring about the healing of the world…. It is clear that these Thessalonian friends have been a tremendous source of blessing for Paul because of their faithfulness and their care for him and for his companions in ministry. He offers these words — and this whole letter — as a blessing to them in return. And that’s how blessings work: we offer them in recognition of the gifts we have received, and in hope of passing these gifts along, that others may flourish. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

The act of blessing is hope made real in word and deed. Spoken or written words of trust and healing. A hand of support, comfort or encouragement placed on another.

Anyone can bless or receive a blessing. Every Sunday, Christians have the joy of extending blessing to others gathered for worship. We extend words, hands and hugs of trust and unity. We pass the grace of bread and wine to one another. As a sign of unity we hold hands and sing. We pray and lay hands on each other in the spirit of healing, protection, commissioning and thanksgiving.

At the end of worship services the worship leader raises her/his hand for a departing blessing. God’s gang sign as one of my friends calls it. When doing so, I choose to bend my ring finger and pinky, leaving the rest of my fingers upright, palm towards those who are gathered. It’s an ancient posture, first used by pagans and later redeemed by Christians to recognize the Trinity (three fingers) and the dual nature of Christ (two fingers). It is a profound honor to speak the benediction, sending us forth with the blessing and strength of God to embody the blessing of Christ through the rest of our week.

These are simple moments, repeated again and again, yet are far from thoughtless ritual. We practice them in worship regularly so we are prepared to carry them with us into the rest of our lives.

I did a couple of Google searches for various versions of “hand raised in blessing” to accompany this blog post. It returned many icons of Christ and a few statues of Buddha. Interestingly enough it also returned a politician giving the sign for “I love you” and more than a few persons giving the one finger salute.

Then there was Spock with his iconic hand gesture accompanied by “live long and prosper.” A word of hope if there ever was one. I had never thought of it as a blessing before, but it’s really quite beautiful. Come to find out Leonard Nimoy borrowed the gesture from “kohane blessing” ritual performed on certain Jewish holy days.

So many messages are possible with just the flick of a wrist. What am I pronouncing in my daily doings? Are my words and actions agents of Christ’s blessing or are they saying something else?

May the Blessed One
Open our lips in blessing
For words have the power to create or destroy
May the Blessed One
Open our hands in blessing
For actions have the power to heal or to wound
May the Blessed One
Open our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
To all, in all and through all

This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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