Advent Meditations: Week 3 – “Rejoice Always”

(Light two blue candles and one pink candle. Read the verses below.)

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, from the CEB

Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

Commentary by Rev. Barbara Wiechel

As Advent was first practiced in the church, it was a season of penitence and self-denial similar to Lent. But the third Sunday provided a bit of relief, a Sunday dedicated to rejoicing, and the candle symbolizing that joy is rose, or pink. Included in the Apostle Paul’s advice to the church is to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every situation. Only if we consider all of our life a prayer to God can we manage praying constantly. When we are facing difficult times, it is not easy to give thanks. And if our joy is defined by the world’s standards, it will be limited. The true gift of faith is that our joy is in God, not in life’s circumstances. Our prayers are not just spoken, but lived out in responsible, generous, compassionate acts.

Perhaps Paul’s most helpful advice for us is “Don’t suppress the Spirit.” Help is always available to us if we are willing to accept it. That is the good news. The awkward news is that the Spirit will lead us to rejoice, will enable us to pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances, but at the Spirit’s leading, not ours. If we suppress the Spirit, we may feel safer, but we may also limit God’s grace in our lives. If we trust that God desires only what is best for us, we will refuse to suppress the Spirit, and rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every situation.

Personal Reflection

Think about a time when it was difficult to rejoice. Perhaps life was overwhelming, or grief was so raw that pain filled every waking moment. What is God’s gift for us when we are places like that? What would the Spirit offer us that would allow us to breathe and move toward rejoicing? Is it possible that rejoicing, praying and giving thanks are ways to ease pains of life? How do we learn to welcome, not suppress the Spirit?

 

Let us pray.

O God,

     when times are troubled and our lives are falling apart,

          still we will rejoice in your love.

We will welcome your Spirit,

     trust in your goodness,

          and learn to give thanks in all situations.

Let your peace rest upon us,

     and keep us intact and blameless as we wait for the coming of the Lord.

Amen.

 


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