Advent III: Even Now – Rejoicing

– Br. Michael, ofm

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice” is the line from Philippians 4 which echoes in my ears over and over again. Rejoice always – even in all of this? Even in all that is going on? Even in restrictions and limitations forcing me not to enjoy some of the things I like best about this season? The answer “yes” is whispered in my ears; even in all of this and then some moments flood my heart.

A fresh snowfall and the beauty it offers. I rejoice in the gift of creation.

A request from a child for a snow angel to be made and I oblige. I rejoice in the gift of childhood delight.

A child’s prayer for our hearts to be softened for each other. I rejoice in the gift of prayer.

A birth of a healthy baby. I rejoice in the gift of life.

A brilliant prairie sunset filling the sky with warmth. I rejoice in the gift of the day.

A set of twinkling Christmas lights which I stop to enjoy. I rejoice in the gift of stillness.

I wonder if in these moments God is not offering reminders to be awakened again to simple joys, to rejoice in the many gifts all around and to evaluate the false joys which raid us of true rejoicing? A wise friend of mine recently declared: “Joy is an unexpected happening that brings me closer to health and wholeness. It is a gift.” How true, snowfall, snow angels, prayer, Christmas lights and so on are just some of the unexpected happenings which should stir our hearts. Where is joy touching our lives each day? Do we rejoice in these joys or do we simply brush them aside for later?

“Joy is the fruit of trust,” a retreat director shared. Trust requires a lot of courage and at the same time a surrendering. Trust allows us to see beyond our “if only” or “even in this” to the heart of life and the awareness of the “spirit of the Lord God” (Isaiah 61) upon us. We can see joy as this fruit in the lives of Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph. They did not “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5) rather took courage in this trust, surrendering their all and in turn joy filled their lives and sustained them even the moments of “all of this”, restrictions, and things being taken from them. The spirit of the Lord was indeed upon these Advent heroes and it is also upon us. Each day we are called to trust, we are called to surrender, we are called to wholeness and we are called to rejoice in the gifts given to us. In doing so we in turn help to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to captives and rejoice in the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61); maybe even more so in all of this.

Can we trust enough so that the fruit of joy will penetrate our living in the days of this Week of Advent Joy? What is God awakening in you this week that is causing your heart to rejoice? Yes even in all of this.

Week Three of Advent is known as the Week of Joy. May this third week of Advent awaken us to true joy. Where do you need to incorporate joy into your daily living in these days ahead? Let that joy be your guide to break through the demands of the week.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

enter into my daily life,

walk with me; awakening me to you.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

help me see you in the now

guiding me and calling out to me.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

for you are my strength,

in peace you are my joy and hope.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

let the graces of your love settle in deep

extending to me the gift of you here.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Artwork: Claire Ziprick

Sunset Photo: Connie Baumgartner