1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets,[a] 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound[b] and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
This past weekend, someone told me about the doctor’s appointment she just had where she learned she has breast cancer. Hard to rejoice about that. I read my devotions this morning, said my prayers, and headed off to church. Today’s todo list waits beside my computer, flashing like Christmas lights in my peripheral vision. So much to do; hard to pray without ceasing. I just heard on the news that the “Thomas Fire” blazes on in California. Having already scorched 180,000 acres, last night it grew to cover 50,000 more acres. Hard to be thankful about that. But, isn’t that exactly what God wants for us—the ability to find joy despite hearing bad news? Isn’t that exactly what God wants of us—a connection that’s always “on,” especially when we’re busy? Isn’t that exactly how God comes to us—stirring up in us gratitude for God’s presence, even when all we hold dear seems to vanish? Rejoice, pray, give thanks. This is what people do when the Holy Spirit is working in them. When rejoicing seems out of the question, when we have no time for prayer, when we have no power to change or even influence what is happening around us —then it is time to “hold on to what is good,” as St. Paul says in today’s passage. It is time to open our broken hearts to God. Then we will see the reason to rejoice. Then we will know the comfort of connection with Jesus in prayer. Then we will have gratitude for God’s good gifts.
We wait, O Lord, and count down the days until the celebration of the birth of your Son, Jesus. May we have holy joy in the anticipation and activities of these days. May we pray to you without ceasing in the midst of our busyness. May our hearts be full of thanksgiving for the gift of the Christ-Child. Amen.