Rejoice in the Lord, always! Again I say, Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice in the Lord, always! Again I say, Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say Rejoice!
Alright! That’s always a bit of a crowd pleaser, am I right? Eyebrows raised, hands clapping, mouths flapping, eyes glistening, both Father and Deacon wearing pink and smiles from ear to ear: that’s what the good Lord desires for us every moment, of every day. From the first moment of creation, that insurmountable exhilarating joy is all God ever wanted for us. And the devil; always trying to rob us of that joy. The enemy wants to burden us with worry and stress, and brokenness and strife, and lies. But as my good friend likes to say, “Tell the truth and spurn the devil.” Amen!
As Zephania declares, “The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” Live in the light. Live in his love. Have joy in your heart and say right to the devil’s face, “No sir, not today! Today is not your day. Today and everyday, the Lord is mine, and I am his, and today I will rejoice! Now get out of my way, cause I need to find my pink socks!”
As we enter into the 3rd Sunday of Advent our attention turns to the infant Jesus. We are reminded that the God of the universe is not far off, but here, close to us and crying out for our love. But how do we rejoice when we are still wearing masks, when a loved one is sick, when we cannot run our business because we cannot find anyone to work, when we are without law and order, when bars are full and churches are empty?
St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the Gospel holds the secret. St. Paul tells the Church in Philippi, “The Lord is near.” First, God is near to us always, in our hearts, in our minds, in our church, in the Holy Eucharist. Why are we worried? There is nothing in this life that we face but what is human, and our God is near. That would be like being afraid of a school yard bully, when Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is standing right next to you! Hey, “The Rock is near,” that’s what Paul’s saying. And if the Lord is near, well then, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” That’s how we do it. Lean on the truth that God is near. Pray like a madman, ask God for exactly what you want, and give thanks for all you have. Period. That’s an amazing recipe for success.
Hardships come our way, the Lord is near. I am afraid for whatever reason: I pray, give thanks, and let God know what I need. Boom! Done. “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now we get on to the next level–that’s Jesus’ level. God doesn’t just want us not afraid, God wants his disciples to be fearless and generous. You’ve got two, that’s one too many–give one away to someone who has none. And the same for food. If you’ve got some, give some. Dang, we can’t even close our drawers, and the walk-in closet isn’t big enough anymore! How much stuff do we need in the pantry? We’ve got stuff in there we’ve totally forgotten about! “Hmph, that’s weird…” Tax collectors, stop taking so much. Soldiers, stop being somebody else’s muscle. And for the love of the Lord, be happy with your paycheck! You’re making $17/hr to flip burgers! All of this greed makes us like Scrooge! Always unhappy!
We’re not talking about what someone else deserves–that’s justice. We’re not talking about who someone else is and what they’ve done, or not done, whether they are moral or immoral, deserving or not. Discipleship isn’t about them–discipleship about us; our love, our generosity, our joy, our Lord. My brothers and sisters, this is the recipe for lasting joy: pray, give thanks, stop hoarding, be generous, and be kind. That’s it. If we want Christmas joy year round, we’ve got to make room in our heart for the infant Jesus. Is there room at the Inn? Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice. Be prayerful, generous, kind, and joyful…and spurn the devil.