3rd Sunday of Advent
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
St. Paul believed that rejoicing was a basic disposition that we all should try to maintain, even when things don’t go our way. In his short Letter to the Philippians, in fact, he spoke about rejoicing fifteen times. And let’s not forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter! He was not going to let his circumstances rob him of his joy.
So how did Paul maintain a joyful disposition? First, he rejoiced because he knew Jesus’ love. If you back up just two chapters in this letter, you’ll see him singing a hymn that extols Jesus’ willingness to empty himself, become a man, and die on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8). And then in the next chapter, he writes, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). The thought of Jesus’ love—a love that gives of itself freely—continually filled Paul with joy.
Second, Paul rejoiced in the Philippians themselves. They were his joy and his crown (Philippians 4:1). They were his dear friends who had joined him in a “partnership for the gospel” (1:5). He rejoiced because he knew he had brothers and sisters who loved him and supported him in his faith.
We will all encounter times of trial and suffering, but Jesus asks us to rejoice whether or not the sun is shining on us. He especially wants us to rejoice as we prepare for Christmas. If Paul were here, he would urge us to keep things in perspective—to look at our lives through the lens of God’s love. He would urge us never to let anxiousness rule our lives, but to strive to keep our sense of peace at all times. He would urge us to pray through the tough times and to find reasons to rejoice.
Jesus has done so much for us. Let’s repay him by rejoicing in his love—and sharing that joy with the people around us.
“Lord, help me hold onto my joy, especially when I face the difficult challenges of life.”
(Psalm) Isaiah 12:2-6
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