“They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” – Isaiah 61:4
One of the remarkable things about the Christian life is how it is both passive and active. It is passive in the sense that it is the result of the work of Christ; no person can save themselves from their own sins. But it is active in the sense that Christians are called to a life of thanksgiving. The old excuses to be pessimistic and self-destructive have been removed.
In the final words of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians we see this tension playing out in nearly every word. He gives them instructions that should characterize their entire lives: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). They are to be tireless in their pursuit of a life of faith. But at the end of the section Paul also reminds them that they are powerless in their own strength: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thes. 5:23-24).
In this way believers participate in the Christian life, as we look to the second advent of Jesus. We are called to live in the light of Christmas, though in our everyday lives we may be tempted to live as if Christmas never happened, or as if the events were irrelevant ancient history.
We must ask ourselves: are our lives characterized by joy, prayer, and giving thanks, regardless of our circumstances?
Likewise, we must remind ourselves: no person living today could bring about the type of salvation that Jesus did when he came to earth, but every person in every era is invited to embrace it.