Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

23 December 2011

Rejoice

At the beginning of December I wrote our annual Christmas letter. I always put a Bible verse at the top of said letter - and somehow I seem to rotate between Isaiah 9:6,7 and Luke 2:11. This year however I used

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

And it got me thinking about joy once again. The joy in this verse isn't dependent upon personal circumstances. It's not about those moments when things are going right and it's easy to smile. Joy in this verse is ever present and lies deep in my soul because irrespective of what is happening in my life, whether my circumstances give rise to smiles or tears, excitement or fear - and I described moments that took in all of these emotions in this year's Christmas letter, such was the year - I always know that God sent His one and only Son to earth a baby, to die a man on a cross and be raised to eternal life. And because of that, no matter what is happening in my life right now - the good and the bad - I live with the blessed hope of eternal life with Him. That brings a deep joy that is always there, irrespective of my day to day circumstances.

I looked up some other verses that use the word "joy" and they are breathtaking, when understood in this light.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
You have filled my heart with greater JOY
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:6-8

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will REJOICE in the LORD,
I will be JOYFUL in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY,
for you are receiving the goal of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.
1Peter 1:8,9

There are many more to be found like this. And this joy is the joy of Christmas. Every year there will be those who delight in Christmas and those for whom it is an intensely sad time. Those who are well prepared, those who are ill prepared and those who lack the means to be prepared at all. Those who have much to celebrate from the year gone by and those whose lives have been turned upside down as the year unfolded.

But deep at the core of Christmas is the truth of John 3:16 - that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. It is right to feel immense happiness or deep grief at this time of the year - if that is the path your year has taken. But then there is this joy, that operates independently of our lives, because it comes as a gift from God in the form a baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

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