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.
At a sports event there are at least three clearly defined groups of spectators.
Quiet watchers – seldom say anything, just watch. Jumps up only because it is the only way to see with everyone else on their feet. If the team loses or wins there is little change in outward attitude. It is just a game, so why get so upset or excited?
Enthusiastic supporter – Constantly on feet, shouting supportive things to the team, a real gung-ho rooter who praises almost every play and makes excuses for bad plays
Constant Critic – nothing is right. Everything is done poorly and this fan could win the game if only the team would listen to him. There is not a player, coach or official who says or does anything correctly for the constant critic.
There are usually more enthusiastic supporters than constant critics and only a few who can sit through the excitement as a quiet watcher. But we see the same types in our daily lives and there the ratios are different. In everyday living, the quiet watchers with little enthusiasm seem to be in the majority, they are followed by a significant number of constant complainers and the minority group is made up of the supportive enthusiasts……
Paul, writing from a prison cell, says to other Christians, “rejoice in the Lord always…and the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Only an enthusiastic supporter could say that from a dirty prison cell, after being persecuted and beaten, after being cursed and spit upon, after living long with the thorn in the flesh. If Paul had been a quiet watcher he might have just accepted it all without a word, and we would missed some of the good news that comes in Christ. If he had been a complainer, he would have blamed the authorities, the stupid non-believing people and above all God for his terrible life. I doubt that any of us have or will suffer the pain and anguish which Paul experienced most of his adult life. Yet he could and did rejoice because Christ was with him. We too are called to overcome our concerns with a joy that comes from God.
We have the choice of how we view and live our lives. Some are already locked into the stance of constant complainer. Such a person may be the last to recognize that style of life, but ask their friends and they will tell you about all the criticism and complaining. Life has almost no joy for such a person. Some are just quietly accepting life, resigned to it but not really content with it. We each can choose to be the enthusiastic supporter, to be joyful, expecting that life will reveal itself as God’s gift of grace. Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I will say, rejoice!
Martha Lannon Higgins – Excerpt from Sermon entitled “The elusive gift of Joy” by Donald Lannon, Guilford Park Presbyterian Church, 3/21/1982.
Holy One, let us be enthusiastic supporters, looking for and finding your Joy as we move through this Advent season, waiting, anticipating, the coming of your Son. Amen.
Download the full sermon here: The Elusive Gift of Joy.