Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
– Philippians 4.4
That line has echoed through my mind today several times. Maybe because it is the Third Week of Advent and the sense of rejoicing for the coming Christmas season is growing. Maybe it is the fact that the “to do” list is becoming less. Maybe it is because over this past week I have been able to truly see, as the prophet Zephaniah says, “the Lord, your God, is in your midst, he will renew you in his love” (Zephaniah 3.14-18a).
It is not because God has come to me in some splendor moment of annunciation or revelation; it is because God has drawn near in my every day in the simplest of things. It is here that my heart rejoices, my soul is gladdened, my spirit is lifted and I have been reminded that the gift of Advent is the constant reminder that “in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12). In the midst of my life, my very simple and ordinary life the God of All: who is hope, who is peace, who is joy has filled and guarded my heart in Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 4.7). Today when I pondered this I was filled with great joy, maybe truly for the first time I have understood the beauty of this third week of Advent as “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing Sunday.” It was how God was present in my life this past week that made me think, yes indeed there is cause for rejoicing and truly our God is present and real and active.
This week my life was full just like everyone else’s life, however it is in this fullness that the reality of God with us was made evident for me. It was connecting with someone who has become a dear friend and discussing the realities of life and how we are seeing God at work in so many moments of our days. It was having an honest conversation with another friend that lifted a burden for both of us. It was in taking the time to be present to creating a piece of art. It was the words of songs touching my soul. It was in stopping to appreciate the beauty of an amazing winter sunrise. It was in listening to a brother. It was in gathering around tabling and breaking bread with my community. It was in the gift of the Eucharist – something so simple yet so very powerful. It was recognizing the dignity and hurting of the poor who came to our door. It was taking the time to speak with a child, to read with a child, to remind a child they are loved. It was taking time to pray. It was in being present for family and friends so they have a place to share their story. It was in pondering the journey and realizing the discoveries that spell out and spill out God’s generosity, love and goodness. So when I stop and consider all of this, it is not extraordinary – it is every day – but it is God at work showing me that the good news is continually being birthed in each week of the year, not just in the preparations for Christmas. It was God saying “here I am, each day I come to you, continue to prepare me a room this week and in the year to come.” (This is the true challenge.)
It truly has been an ordinary week that makes my heart rejoice and it has nothing to do with fame or fortune. It is simply about good news penetrating my life and my heart being renewed because God continually is fulfilling the promise made in Jesus, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28.20). The beautiful challenge that is before me is to continue to make God’s love known and real (as noted above), to be able to give witness to God, like Mary and say, “here I am.”
How about you?
What is the cause of your rejoicing this week?
What brings you joy and reminds you of God in our midst?
As this Third Week of Advent will fill and always seems to disappear very quickly may we be more aware of the journey of those around us and offer our hands as the hands of God saying “here I am.”
Week 3 Advent Goals:
Find one way this week to bring joy to someone’s life – think outside the box. Think of those providing services so we can celebrate with our families and friends. Think of the outcasts, the lonely, the hurting children, the poor. Once you find a way to bring joy do it!
Create a litany of your joys and post it on your fridge or your bathroom mirror.