Rejoice, Communicate, Give Thanks…
Advent is here, and with it lots of events, parties, decorating, and waiting. We wait in lines, in parking lots, for our orders to arrive, for the holidays to come, for gifts to be delivered, in traffic jams, and we wait to hear form that loved one who is far away. It sometimes feels like this is a season of waiting. This is particularly tough for us as Americans because we have been conditioned to believe that waiting is wrong. It is unproductive and a waste of time. It is not surprising then that phones and social media have become so ingrained in our lives. We can constantly feel like we are being productive- even though we are probably just being constantly preoccupied – but at least we do not have to feel like we are waiting.
As we go through this season of waiting, I am confronted by our upcoming scripture reading from I Thess. 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
These are such simple instructions. It is ironic that they tend to be activities that we struggle with. It seems like our need to be productive and establish or self-worth has made it so hard for us to stop constantly doing stuff that we rarely have time or strength to devote ourselves to rejoicing, having a conversation with God, and verbalizing thanks and gratitude. But if I understand these verses correctly, the thing God desires most for us, God’s very will for our lives, is that we learn to rejoice, communicate with God, and give thanks despite the circumstances of life we find ourselves in. There must be something about cultivating these three traits/habits/rhythms/attitudes that helps to offset the incredible self-centeredness that our society attempts to imbue in us. Maybe our takeaway from this Advent scripture can be to stop focusing on the need to be busy and instead allow our hearts to live, to rejoice, to pray (even heartfelt, sorrowful words) and give thanks. This is one way we can recapture the powerfulness of Advent in our lives. John the Baptist is our traditional figure during Advent. We always read the scriptures about his life and think about his ministry. The most important thing I remember about John is not his crazy lifestyle choices, his eccentric clothing, or his rudimentary diet. No, instead it is his focus on wanting help people change their hearts so that they could receive the gift of Christmas in ways that would stick. Ways that would change them and free them from the hurtful influence of a dangerous world. I wonder, what ways can we change our hearts this Advent while we wait?