This third week in Advent is the week of Joy, the rose candle week on your Advent wreath. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say it: Rejoice.” Why? One simple reason for joy: The Lord is near.
Joy is not an emotion. It isn’t the same as “being happy.” The apostle Paul was not likely very happy to be in prison as he wrote his letter to the Philippian congregation to thank them for their gift. But his letter is unusually joyful, brimming with rejoicing and exhortations to rejoice. You can be filled with joy even in the most unhappy of times and places.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within us. It is something that God produces in a heart set free to be joyful in Christ. Our old Adamic heart is incapable of joy. It’s a kind of joy sponge that literally sucks the joy out of everything joyful in this life. But our new heart in Christ rejoices even in suffering, even in the darkness, even when there is little reason to be happy.
It was for the joy of your salvation that Jesus set His gaze to Calvary and endured the cross, scorning its shame. The joy of saving you far outweighed the suffering it entailed. And it is for the joy of our salvation that we too endure our cross, knowing that our present suffering is little compared to our coming glory in Christ.
Anxiety robs us of joy. When our hearts are restless about many things, the joy of the Lord gets overshadowed by the urgent and the anxious. Therefore, the apostle writes, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” And note the “with thanksgiving” that goes with your prayers and petitions. It isn’t “thank you in advance for your cooperation,” but “thank you for the circumstances that have brought me to prayer.” Cast your cares upon Him, that He might restore to you the joy of your salvation.
Sometimes, the joy of Christ is quenched by our own thoughts. We dwell on the negative, the ugly, the deplorable, the wicked. Whatever joy we might have gets drowned in a sea of negativity and anxiety over the state of this world. Again, the apostle would restore our joy by transforming our minds and hearts in Christ. “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things.” That is the mind of Christ that seeks the hidden beauty of a new creation. And that is the heart of Christ that rejoices over you.
Rejoice in the Lord. On this chilly Advent night in the week of joy, fill your mind with Christ-thoughts and be filled with the Spirit’s joy that is yours in Christ.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy Name!