Read Philippians 4:4-7 and Psalms 84
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
1How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! 2My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 4Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. 6As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. 9Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. (NIV)
The third Sunday in Advent has been historically known as “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice.” Advent originally was a time of fasting, but on the third Sunday, there is a shift from penitence to joy as we contemplate Christ’s coming.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he is near the end of his letter. It is a letter of joy that Paul writes and he gets to this final thought and he writes to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” After writing this, he repeats the thought by writing, “I will say again, Rejoice!”
Joy is spoken of throughout the New Testament. Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness this way. Happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is "the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death - can take that love away." Therefore joy can be present even in the midst of sadness. When Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit, notice that he lists Joy second on the list following love which is an “agape” love. We see this in Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)
When you read Psalm 84, one cannot help but sense the joy in the palmist as he thinks about God and his home which is our future home too. I love the end of this psalm saying, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” This is a wonderful image of the joy to be in God’s presence.
How do you find joy in the Lord? How do you hang on to this joy in troubling times? How do you see the difference between joy and happiness?
May God bless you this week.