top of page
  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Dec 17th, 2023 “Rejoice Always!”

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23 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. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

These may be some of my favourite words from the New Testament.  

The third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of rejoicing or Joy as we saw with the wreath lighting liturgy.  So it is appropriate that we have this section of the epistle to the Thessalonians  where we begin by saying Rejoice!  Paul speaks here with the heart of a Pastor.  Paul is encouraging them to live with love - not an emotion of the moment - but a choice - an action - a way of life.  We will see this further developed in his letter to the Corinthians.

These words from Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians are the earliest we have in our New Testament canon.  They were written early in his career and not long after Jesus’ death.  Paul was writing to a new Church. A Church learning to live in a new way.   They were worshiping one God in a society that worshiped many Gods.  As a result they had opened themselves up to persecution.  Paul’s words are encouraging.  

Is Paul giving them advice on how to live as Christians until the coming of Christ - which they expected to happen soon - or perhaps is there something more in these words?

Paul is offering a discourse on the “Good Life”.  This is a theme that will reappear in one way or another in all his letters and those attributed to him. 

What is this “good life” that Paul wants the Thessalonians to live?  How are they to do this and why should they?

Living a good life or the good life is probably as relevant for us as it was for these readers of Paul’s early work.  In fact the notion of the good life or what constitutes a good life surrounds us.  

What messages do we get about what makes a good life?

Well a gym would tell you that Good Life is fitness. TV, movies, social media might tell you that a good life is full of things, social prestige, wealth, travel, gourmet foods.  A lottery might tell you that living a good life means a fancy home or cottage or a flashy sports car.

But these are things.  These are trappings or wrappings of a life.  It is not a life.

Paul would not recognize any of the worldly definitions of a good life. Paul was talking about something more. And his message is as important for us as it was for the people he was writing to.

Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians was as affirming, positive and hope-filled as any of the letters to follow.  He calls them beloved 5 times and sisters and brothers 13 times.  Paul wants them to live lives, lead lives that are pleasing to God.  

Paul is writing about wholeness.  Wholeness is at the foundation of Paul’s understanding of the good life.  This understanding reflects all sides of his education, the purity code of the Hebrew Scriptures and the popular thought of the Greeks.  Both of these emphasized completeness as perfection.

Paul calls for unceasing joy, prayer and thanksgiving.  These are actions.  We are to rejoice, pray and give thanks without reservation or restraint.  

In this letter from Paul we see what life looks like lived out in response to the Gospel.  For Paul, such a life is joyous, prayerful, thankful, spirit filled, prophetic and tested.  How this will look for each sister and brother will differ - but the direction is clear.  

Asking the questions - what is a good life?  What is wholeness in our life?  These are important.  How often do we take the time to reflect on this?  We are busy.  I would suggest that the question is rarely asked in a serious and prayerful way.

What is the nature of a well lived Christian life?  Paul gives us the invitation in these words to the Thessalonians and reminds us that God’s faithfulness makes all this possible.

Paul’s words have much to say to us who may be living damaged or fearful lives.  His vision of openness is based on faith, hope and love.  Paul would encourage an openness to life, curiosity rather than dread.

Paul gives a prayer and a promise in this epistle.  His prayer is for wholeness and his promise is that the one who calls you is faithful…..  


bottom of page