(Photo courtesy “The Inspired Room”)
“Rejoice always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Happy Third Sunday of Advent, on which the third candle of an Advent wreath is lit, this time the sole pink one and the one that symbolizes joy. This third Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday, which is the Latin word for “rejoice.” On this day and every day we are called to “scatter joy” and to rejoice in all things good.
What does it mean to “rejoice?” It doesn’t necessarily mean to feel happy or giddy but rather to find a source of joy and to be grateful. Most of all, it calls us to express that feeling of thanks and resolve to be a herald of good tidings.
But, who am I kidding, as sometimes it’s tough to find joy and certainly to rejoice. We all have our struggles and our sorrows but something I read today gave me hope.
Paul speaks of rejoicing in God’s love together. Yep, God never wants us to be or feel alone so he actually instructs us to pray and love together. God envisions us helping one another carry life’s burdens, offering a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, taking care of those ill or alone, and accompanying loved ones through their struggles. We will find, says Paul, that rejoicing is something we do by reaching out to each other. We are joyful when others find joy, but we also weep when others are hurting.
Christmas is filled with songs and sayings of joy. “Joy to the World.” “Comfort and Joy.” “Echoing their joyous strains.” Notice it’s not “Happiness to the World” or “Comfort and Happiness.” There’s a big difference. “Happy” is often attached to circumstances or possessions, but if you possess real joy, you remain joyful even when things aren’t going the way you hoped they would. A joyful person knows that any temporary struggle is God’s way of strengthening us and preparing us for the ultimate joy. You feel confident that God is in control and you allow life to unfold in His time, not yours. Not an easy state to accomplish, but one to strive for nonetheless.
Goodness is greater than sin and love conquers all, and in this we can rejoice today and every day as good happens daily, even amongst the bad. We should spread this Advent joy to each other and those we meet throughout our busy days. Let us remember that true joy does not come from the things we buy and receive at Christmas, but from the love, kindness, and compassion we receive from and give to others.
“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing that you may abound I hope.”