1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice, Pray, Thank, three commands in three sentences, they sound easy enough when you say them fast, but they can be a real struggle when we are struggling.  When you take the first three letters of each command R, P and T, it looks like an abbreviation for repeat, you could say that these three commands are things that are to be repeated.

At Croydon this morning we’re going to finish our service with another command, included in the carol Joy to the world that fits with Paul’s command to the Thessalonians, it comes at the end of the second stanza, ‘Repeat the sounding joy’. And of course we repeat it!  If you aren’t at Croydon this morning you will have the opportunity to sing this carol at some stage over the Christmas period, even if it’s only while watching one of the Christmas carols shows on TV.  Repeat joy!  Repeat joy, Repeat joy!

Once again it sounds easy if you say it fast, but it can be difficult to do.  Each year the Christmas celebration seems to sneak up on us.  We see decorations and things appear in the shops during October, yet we get so busy that it is suddenly Christmas and we are surprised by it!

Then unless the build up to Christmas matches what our expectations and traditions are it becomes a struggle for us to get into the ‘spirit’ of Christmas.  We want to repeat the events of the past or at least the family traditions that we’ve developed so that it feels like Christmas.

I’ve heard several people in the last few weeks comment that last year “Didn’t feel like Christmas” or was the worst Christmas ever.  I’ve found myself wondering why?  At first glance it looks like it’s because things aren’t following their normal pattern or routine, but perhaps it’s because we’re failing to RPT, rejoice, praise and thank.  Are we lamenting what used to be and forgetting to be thankful for what is happening in our lives now?

I have a theory, I reckon that if we put the thankful first then the rejoicing and praying automatically follows.  Think about it, if you are thankful in ALL circumstances does it not cause you to rejoice and pray? 

Like several other members of the congregation I have been keeping track of some of the gifts of grace that have appeared in my day.  We’ve been taking notice and giving thanks for the gracious gifts that God places in our daily lives.

I looked back through my journal the other day and from Tuesday June 7th I have been attempting to find things in my day to be truly thankful to God for.  It hasn’t been easy, some days the last thing I feel like doing is adding to the list. 

As I looked back through and reflected I rejoiced that EVERY day since then I have included at least one thing to give thanks for even on the tough days.  What I did notice though was that even after all this time I’m still struggling to be thankful for the difficult things, that is the things that test or stretch me outside of my comfort zone, or when things don’t go my way or a prayer isn’t answered the way I would like them to be.  What I’ve written down are all pretty much things that were easy to be thankful for.  So there is some work to do to get to the point of being thankful in ALL circumstances.

Keeping track of the things to be thankful for is just one way of giving thanks in all circumstances, and as I mentioned it has helped in praying and in being a little more joyful and rejoicing in my life, and I’ve had feedback from others who are keeping their journals that confirms that.  So in these last days of Advent and into Christmas how are you doing with Rejoicing, Praying and being Thankful?  Is it worth repeating?

I found looking at the children’s presentation extremely helpful in focussing a bit of joy into the busyness of the season.  Even though a celebration like this a fortnight out from Christmas Eve doesn’t fit with my pattern of preparation for Christmas, being thankful and focussing on rejoicing has produced a noticeable shift in my thinking and state of mind in the last week.  I pray that it has a similar effect on you too.

Remember though the words of Paul that follow his command to rejoice pray and give thanks.  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul 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.

Only the God of peace can bring you real peace, only he can sanctify or make you holy in his eyes, he is the one that will keep you sound and blameless, that was the whole reason for sending his son into the world as a helpless newborn infant.  So that through him you could be sound and blameless and able to give thanks and be joyful and have him pray to the Father on your behalf.

That really is something to be joyful about, to pray about and give thanks for, so if things aren’t repeating the way you’d like them to, pause, reflect on what is happening you that you can be thankful for and may the Lord bless you throughout the rest of Advent and the Christmas season.