On this third Sunday in Advent, the church issues a command – Rejoice! The teaching comes to us from the second reading today, taken from the very end of St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, and therefore the very earliest Christian writing that we have. In the few short sentences, Paul manages to pack in eight commandments, a short explanation, a benediction and a final promise. The teaching that Paul offers in some ways provides us with a summation of not just the Advent season, but also of the whole Christian life; perhaps he wrote it with new believers in mind, and wanted to have a series of short, easy-to-remember teachings that would help to form Christian disciples in the way of Christ, so that we would be ready to meet him when he comes (which Paul seems to believe was going to be real-soon-now).

The Commandments:

  1. 16 Rejoice always,
  2. 17 pray constantly,
  3. 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  4. 19 Do not quench the Spirit,
  5. 20 do not despise prophesying,
  6. 21 but test everything;
  7. hold fast what is good,
  8. 22 abstain from every form of evil.

The Benediction:
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Concluding Promises:24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NRSV)

The Jesus Prayer has a number of versions; the one I quoted in this homily is:

  • Lord Jesus Christ,
    Son of the Living God,
    have mercy on me, a sinner.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (11’20”)