A Thrill of HopeDec 10, 2021
This Sunday, with almost two weeks left before Christmas, St. Paul tells us to “rejoice always!”
Do you feel like you rejoice always? Or rejoice at all? Do you have joy in your daily life?
I’m going to make a confession here: I am a very naturally happy, nay, joyful person. In fact, when I was a contestant on Jeopardy!, a Twitter user wondered if I was trying to imitate Carol Channing with my enthusiasm. (If you don’t get that reference, google Carol Channing. You’ll get it.)
I wasn’t. I’m just a naturally joyful person. So when St. Paul says to “rejoice always”, I can say I do that often enough. Not always, though, because, let’s be honest: It’s hard to rejoice always.
When my doctor told me I was going to need a double-lung transplant or I’d die, that was not a moment for rejoicing. When I lost my hearing and needed to get a cochlear implant, that was not a time of rejoicing. It was a time of sadness and frustration. And who doesn’t, in her daily round, find moments of frustration and impatience when stuck behind a slow driver, or a person in a drive-through line who seems to be ordering the whole store? Or find herself telling a toddler that, yes, we do need to wear clothes in order to go to church?
There are days when I am not living up to what St. Paul is asking us to do, especially in the middle of this hectic season when we’re trying to be everything to everyone at every moment! It’s enough to make me want to throw up my hands and say, “St. Paul, you are not being realistic here.”
Are you feeling that way too? Are you feeling defeated, burnt-out, sad, depressed, anxious? Are you looking for the thrill of hope that the carols promise?
It’s there for us.
All through Advent, the Scriptures tell us of the dawn that is coming--that God will make our sins white as snow, that we will have a king coming to save us, that a royal highway for our God is being prepared in the desert. We are not alone. We are not forgotten. You are not alone. You are not forgotten.
But it sure can seem like that during these long winter nights, when we’re in bed at 3 AM and the to-do list, the worries, and the doubts plague us. Can we really rejoice in the midst of all this mess?
We can. But it takes work. It takes purposefully shifting our mindset from one of fear to one of trust in a good God, a God who loves us so much, who wanted us redeemed so badly, that he sent his precious son for us.
And it might be the muttered-through-clenched-teeth yes, the unwillingly, painful ascent to joy. That’s OK. God will take that and transform that. That yes makes the mountains low and the crooked ways straight. It opens your heart a little more, allows more of God’s life to get in the cracks, and strengthens your eyes to see those opportunities for joy even when it might seem like no joy is possible.
St. Paul isn’t giving us platitudes. He’s giving us a solid way to live the Christian life--by rejoicing always. It’s a way that might seem hard and it often is hard. But when we try to live this way, we’re making the crooked ways straight. Notice I said try. We’re imperfect people. Our faults are said to die 15 minutes after we do. All our lives we’ll be wrestling with something.
But wrestling is what makes your crooked ways straight. That’s how you prepare the manger for the Savior. That’s how you get to heaven. The journey to Heaven isn’t always easy or perfect or what you had imagined. But you can find joy in it, the daily joy that feeds your faith, hope, and love.
By Emily DeArdo, Spoken Women Team, and Emily M. DeArdo
Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash
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