Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. "Gaudete" is the Latin word for "rejoice," and this Sunday is known as such because of this scripture from Philippians. I must say I have a bit of love/hate relationship with this scripture. I love the message it speaks to me, and I hate how often I forget it and fail to live into it.
I like the idea of rejoicing - and I'd like to think I'm pretty good at rejoicing - but that's really only true when I have something obvious to rejoice about. I'm great at rejoicing around holidays, or birthdays, or other exciting times. But come some random Monday and you won't find me rejoicing very often. Yet the scripture tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. To me this means that we don't always have to be rejoicing over whatever in particular is happening in our lives (Lord knows that would be near impossible), but it does mean that no matter the circumstance we can rejoice in the fact that the Lord is with us. It turns out that we don't need to wait for a special occasion to rejoice when what we are rejoicing in is the presence of God in our lives.
The second part of that scripture is extremely challenging for me. "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Do not worry about anything? What am I, a robot? To be fair, I tend to worry more than your average bear. Joel is constantly reminding me that worry accomplishes nothing besides making myself more miserable and anxious than I need to be. It's something that I am actively trying to change about myself, and it takes a lot of prayer and determination. Interestingly this new lifestyle of roaming around Europe and never quite knowing where we are going to live for more than a few months at a time has led me to worry less than I did in my more stable years. I think at this point I have to rely on God for so much it's easier than ever to just turn it all over into God's hands.
The third part is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and one I use in prayer often. Sometimes there is nothing left to do but pray for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, and then rejoice in it. As Christmas approaches, may it be so.
God of rejoicing, we give thanks for the capacity you have given us to rejoice in you always. Help us to let go of our worries, to trust in you in all things, and to experience your peace which surpasses all understanding. Amen.