During this season of Advent, Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica reminds us how we should live our lives in preparation for Christ’s return. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Paul’s instructions are quite clear, but not so easy to practice in our daily lives, even in the joyful Christmas season. We live in an imperfect world, and I am most certainly a fallen sinner, so I know I can’t realistically meet Paul’s standards, 24/7, 365 days a year. But what would happen if we could improve just a little bit, each day, in rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances? How might our lives be changed? How might we change the lives of those around us?
I believe turning our hearts towards God by rejoicing, praying and giving thanks can change our hearts and our lives. When we rejoice in God and give thanks to him, I believe we begin to see ourselves and our world with more gentle and compassionate eyes. For example, we might see the fear and anguish of our neighbor who is struggling to provide for his or her family instead of that same neighbor’s ugly, beat up car and unkempt yard. We might see the pain and insecurity of a family torn apart by divorce or abuse instead of that family’s unpredictable or overbearing behavior.
So yes, I believe increased rejoicing, praying and giving thanks can change us all. And I am grateful for God’s constant presence in our lives which makes these incremental, and hopefully sustainable, changes possible.