Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thess. 5:12-28)Often when reading the New Testament epistles I find myself amazed at the language these letter writers used to explain their understanding of Jesus. They deliver their exhortations to love one another and live in submission with the passion that only one who had experienced Christ first hand could do.
It is easy to just “read” the Bible without remembering where some of these words come from. The same Paul who sought out Christians for persecution, who made it his job to payback what he saw as wrong made a complete turn after a direct experience with God, and he encourages us to do the same in this passage. Paul tells us to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. This would be easy for us to say, but Paul lived it; he was jailed, beaten, and persecuted but showed thankfulness and joy through it all.
Could words like this come from anyone who had not experienced the glory and the grace of God first hand the way Paul did? I don’t think so.
This is why advent is so important. By taking a yearly journey of anticipating the coming of the Christ we reflect on why we need a savior. By reflecting on the reasons for the birth of Christ our minds turn as well to the Second Coming. We gain a new appreciation for what Jesus means for us individuals and the world.