THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NRSV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
FINDING JOY IN HOLDING FAST
When we look to the south of our home, we see a lovely hill covered with firs and sycamore trees. But just beyond that hill is a large landfill, a huge eyesore that continues to encroach into its beautiful surroundings. Our earthly life can be just like that scene, can’t it? A new day may begin as a picture-perfect scene of serenity before us, but a junkyard of troubles may be waiting over the next hill. Life is a rich and often surprising mixture of opposites, of joy and “junk.”
In today’s passage, we are told to rejoice always. This seems nearly impossible! How do we remain joyful in every reality before us?
How do we live as people of joy amid the junk?
Today we can find our Advent joy in the phrase, hold fast to what is good. This phrase brings to mind the pocket cross my friend Elaine gave me when I was about to begin chemotherapy. When I felt afraid, sad, or weary, I could hold fast to my cross and envision being held fast by God. Amid the fear, sadness, and weariness, there was the peaceful inner joy of feeling beloved and held by God’s care, shared in the kindness of a dear friend.
Paul’s words do not exclude other feelings or countenances; he does not say, “Solely rejoice” but “Rejoice always.” Joy does not need to be our only emotion, exclusive of all others. Jesus wept, Jesus became angry, Jesus even agonized. To happily rejoice in some circumstances would be absurd or callous. But we can hold a gentle glow of abiding joy within us, even as we mourn, work, struggle, or suffer.
Consider all the Advent gifts God has shared with us through Christ Jesus, the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. In the middle of our junk – the ugly, the sorrow, the pain – we can hold fast to what is good, the particular goodness of God that we need to sustain us and bring us through. We can hold fast to the goodness of hope when we are disappointed or despairing. The goodness of peace when we are angry or anxious. The goodness of love when we are lonely or lost.
Today, may we also learn that we can hold fast to the goodness of joy – even when we are standing in the middle of a junkyard. During a particularly challenging time, my gracious friend Debbie recently exclaimed, “Let’s be determined to find joy!” I love her idea! Looking around us, we just might find a treasure or two hidden in the trash.
This Sunday we will begin Love in the Limbo. Our reading will be Luke 1:26-38.
Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/