Skip Navigation

Back

"And Again I Say Rejoice"

December 15, 2020
By Paul Emmel
The pink candle on our table symbolizes joy
during the third week of Advent.

 

We might ask the Apostle Paul, "Even during COVID? Even when our family life has been upended? Even when I've lost my job and can't pay the rent? Even when my friend is on a ventilator?

 

"Rejoice in the Lord always;
And again, I will say Rejoice."
"Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds
in Christ Jesus."
 
Philippians 4:5-7 (emphases mine)

 

When life makes no sense, God's peace sustains and directs us.

His peace, not our emotions, acts like a guardian angel for our mental health.

This peace resides in Jesus, our refuge. When life seems crazy, we let our reason prevail, not our emotions. Think: The Lord is at hand. No need to worry;  simply pray with thanksgiving. The unfathomable peace of God in Christ protects us.

Yes, it is possible to rejoice regardless of our circumstances:


"Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus
for you."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18  (emphases mine)

 

Note: we are to rejoice in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Clearly, we are not to rejoice for death, disease, misery, and sin. These things are not God's will.

Feeling happy depends upon circumstances; rejoicing depends upon our hearts.  Feelings fluctuate; joy remains constant. Feelings are a bubbling brook; joy is an underground aquafer.  Feelings can come from anywhere; joy comes from the Lord.

When I was a chaplain at Green Bay Correctional Institution, one of our favorite songs was, "Rejoice in the Lord Always, and Again I Say Rejoice!" We used to sing it in rounds. Faces lit up; big, happy smiles shined on the faces of volunteers and inmates alike.

Regardless if we spent twenty years in prison (inmates) or 90 minutes in prison (volunteers), we could all share the joy of the Lord. It was there for anybody given faith in Christ Jesus.

Inmates and volunteers rejoicing together in Green Bay Correctional Institution Christian Fellowship Group, Advent 1986

 

In our Christian Fellowship Group, we had one unwritten rule: no complaining allowed. Only rejoicing! We knew that complaining - like a virus - is dangerously contagious.

Rejoicing, however, is also contagious. As a group, we decided to rejoice. As long as we rejoiced, our guard was up. The Enemy could not invade. We lived under a banner of praise. The joy of the Lord was our strength. Complaining and pity parties were not our style, only thanksgiving and rejoicing.

If people can rejoice together in prison, they can surely do the same in the community. This year we may have to rejoice with our faces masked; we may have to keep six feet apart.  We may have to "Zoom" our prayers and songs, but we still keep rejoicing, regardless where we are located.

Rejoicing is not optional for God's people. The Apostle's words are both an invitation and a command. To enable us to obey his command, we need only contemplate His great mercy for us. His salvation has given us good reason to rejoice.  His Spirit will supply our will to rejoice; He will fill us with His praise. He is the center of joy.

May the peace and joy of the Lord guard our hearts and minds in the days ahead!

Paul Emmel

December 13, 2020
The Third Week of Advent

 
 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.