Week 3 of Advent: Rejoice

Gaudete Sunday

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete SundayGaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in  Philippians 4:4-5.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 

What generates your Christmas excitement?

With Christmas just twelve days away, you can feel the excitement growing more and more as we get closer and closer to Christmas. But what’s generating the excitement? Is it the expectation of Santa bringing gifts? Is it spending time with family? Are you excited to get time off from the office? Or is it the opportunity to bring our gift of worship to the manger for the Savior that was sent to save us from our sins? COVID certainly can change out outlook, so what if Christmas isn’t a time of excitement and rejoicing? What then? Rejoice!

Rejoicing from prison

When Paul wrote the book of Philippians and he penned out Philippians 4:4-5, where do you think he was as he wrote? He was probably in the last place you’d ever think a person would rejoice. He was in prison in Rome – and not so he could hide from all the Christians for a while so he could catch up letter writing. No, he was there simply for being a Christian and eventually he would die for his faith in Jesus. But even in a prison cell he found the opportunity to find joy and to write about that joy so that we today and all Christians can experience the kind of joy that Paul had.

When faith is real, we can rejoice always

Regardless of the adversity Paul encountered, he didn’t lose hope. He had a faith in Christ that was real and evident by the joy that he shared with others as he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” If anyone had a reason to not rejoice, it was Paul in a Roman prison cell. Paul doesn’t just tell us to rejoice – but to rejoice always. Really? Always? How are we able to rejoice when life throws us unexpected curve balls such as COVID or cancer or other life-threatening illness, financial stress, children who turn away from God, death of a loved one, disappointments, abuse, abandonment, unfair circumstances? How do we rejoice when we are in a season of waiting on God? Or how do we rejoice when finances are tight? Well just to be sure we got the message, Paul says it again – Rejoice!

Our joy is different than the world’s joy

When our hope is in Christ and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a deep-seated inner joy that is much different than how the world see joy. By the world’s standards, joy depends on my circumstances. But the inner joy that is a fruit of the Spirit, is available to everyone who places their faith in Christ as their Savior. This kind of joy is not dependent on how I feel or anything else. Instead, inner joy is made possible by a believing heart. The inner joy we have isn’t a giddiness or happy emotion based on what has happened in our life. Inner joy is there regardless of what’s going on around us.

The Lord is near the brokenhearted

It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pain of the moment but that through the pain, we know that Christ is near. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” We know that our joy comes from the Lord. In Him, we can find the joy of being forgiven. In Him, we can find the joy of His peace that passes all understanding. We can find joy in the healing work of Christ – whether that needed healing is emotionally, physically, or spiritually. 

So even when we are experiencing a crushing weight of sadness, despair, fear, anger, disappointment, or hurt, there is still something Jesus plants in us that gives us a reason to keep going and the strength to endure. The joy we have in our salvation through Christ coats the “bitter pills” or life with a soothing, healing salve to every one of life’s problems that we encounter.

Are you able to rejoice this Christmas season? If not, spend some time alone with Jesus today and ask Him to fill your heart with His joy.


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