Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 16-18 – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ”.
The Christmas season is a time when joy and love seem to abound in extra measure. At our churches, the Children’s Christmas Program brings smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts long after the program itself has ended. The Christmas songs on the radio or our play stations and the specials on television also add to the joy of the season. Extra time with family and friends is an added bonus that brings us even more joy.
On the past two Sundays in many churches we have lit the candles of hope and peace and have been reminded of how, in Christ, God brings these things to the world. This Sunday we will light the candle of joy and will be reminded of how Christ also brings us joy during the Advent season. Joy is an emotion that naturally surrounds a birth as well. So it is fitting that we await the birth of Jesus with much joy.
Yet very quickly after December 25, for many the Christmas season will end. We turn from time with family and celebrations with great food and merriment to times of being alone and figuring out how we can lose what we gained and pay for what we gave. Christmas is too often moved on from and picked up long before the season is actually over. And if we are not careful, the joy that filled us and lifted our spirits can also slip away.
To be joyful in Christ is a trait that Christians should have all year round. Christ does not go away with the trees and bows and songs. But our heightened sense of joy can go. To keep our sense of joy requires some intentional effort on our part. We must choose to cultivate a sense of joy in our hearts all year long. Whether we make it a portion of our daily prayer time or whether we keep a little “thank” journal that we write in each day or whether we post a few things that we are thankful for each day on social media, we must thank God each day for His presence, love, and activity in our lives. As we practice being joyful, we will find that joy becomes a natural part of our daily lives. It is then that we begin to live into these words: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ”. May it be so. Amen.