Today’s Scripture: 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, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.  (NRSV)
Artwork by Frank Halloran

Artwork by Frank Halloran

At a young age I was told “Jesus wept” is the shortest sentence in the Bible.  But for brevity, no single verse can top 1 Thessalonians 5:16: “Rejoice always.”

Paul isn’t known for brevity.  My English teachers might have marked his compositions with a red pencil for run on sentences, but not the conclusion to his first letter to the church at Thessalonica.  Here he strings together a rat-a-tat-tat series of succinct admonitions of encouragement.  One commentator calls them “a chain of jewels of good advice.”

We probably can’t escape the image of presents under the Christmas tree during Advent.  So for today let’s take a clue from them.  It is said, “The best gifts come in small packages.” 1 Thess. 5:16 is one of them: “Rejoice always.”

If things are going well for us, especially during this season of the year, that encouragement might seem like a simple matter. However, not everyone fits into the “ho-ho-ho” frame of mind. If problems, troubles, or sadness cloud our way, what do we do?

Back in the Baptist church I grew up in, one of the ladies’ Sunday School class was the Joy Class.  A framed piece of embroidery hung on their wall:


Advent offers a myriad of opportunities to focus on and worship Jesus: the special worship services here and throughout the community, the bookshelves and web sites bulging with Advent materials, this daily Advent devotional itself.  Advent simply lends itself to focus on Jesus.

Similarly, opportunities to be of service to others abound this time of year.  The number of potential recipients of our Christian concern, compassion, and cheer is limitless, as are the ways in which we can demonstrate them.

I have to think Paul would have appreciated those three words on the ladies’ classroom wall.  You see, when we focus on “J” and serve “O,” “Y” takes care of itself.