Advent, Day 19: How joy flows

Today’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

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

“God’s will” is an idea and a phrase we use a lot in church circles; most often, it seems, to talk about the particular choices God means for us to make, or the lives God plans for us to live. I love the possibility, though, that another way to think about this is what God desires for us, rather than something that God is going to make happen to or for us. To think about what God desires for us is to put ourselves back into the equation: to trust that God created each of us with uniqueness, with personalities, preferences, gifts, experiences that all contribute to who we are and who we are in God. As we begin to align our own desires with God’s, our relationship to God grows closer, our real selves are revealed more fully, and we can begin to participate actively in bringing about God’s desires for the world.

1 Thess. 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I can’t think of too many scriptures that use that “God’s will” phrase so specifically (one of the closest I can think of is Micah’s “what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God”… but “what the Lord’s requires” is a very different approach than “what the Lord desires”!).

When we join in with God’s profuse joy, it will flow from us: in peace among our companions, in encouragement and help for those around us, in patience, in rejoicing, in prayer, in thanksgiving. In God’s faithfulness, we will be kept like new as we await Christ’s coming. And as we grow to be more and more like Christ in our love for one another, our advent joy will be made complete.

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