December 17: Hebrews 13:15-17

We are in the third week of Advent and our theme this week is joy. Our three-verse text from the last chapter of the letter to the Hebrews ends on this high note of joy. The unknown author of this letter leads us gradually up to this final high note.

In verse 15 we are instructed to continually praise God. Each of us can surely praise God occasionally and probably even often. God is certainly worthy of our praise. We can praise him for who He is as well as for what He has done, not just for the world in general but for us personally. To praise God continually, however, is very difficult for us to do. Hard, mysterious and difficult things come into the lives of each of us. At such times we seem to come to God with questions more than constant praise. Our goal, however, should still be to praise God all the time.

In verse 16 we are called upon to do sacrificial sharing: "... do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." It is hard to remember all that we are to do, but we must not forget, especially at Christmas time, to share with others—-especially with those in great need. We are to share even to the point of sacrifice. To share with others is a good thing. Our sharing is not just seasonal but continual.

In verse 17 we are told to follow our leaders who are looking over us. We are to have confidence in them. We are to do this so that their pastoral work will be a joy and not a burden (NIV), or as the RSV translates, "Let them do this joyfully and not sadly." Let us contribute to our leaders' joy and not their sadness! Let us make sure that our spiritual leaders know that their joyful leadership is greatly appreciated, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

Lynda Pence