Rejoice? Well this is a word that one normally encounters during the holidays and the expectant season of Advent. I've already noticed the red Starbucks coffee cups with the words joy, celebrate and magic written in white letters popping up in my classrooms, the gym and other places about town.
My morning routine is pretty boring. Stare at the clock in shock that it's time to arise for another day's work, catch the early morning news headlines, tell God thank you for another day, coffee, shower and if I'm lucky, I can squeeze in some before work prayer, scripture and meditation time. I guess today, I was lucky. I read through today's devotion of Forward Day by Day. The reflection reading came from Nehemiah 12:43 "They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy." The opening sentence of the meditation was "God calls us to rejoice, even in the toughest of times." That immediately resonated very profoundly with me.
You know, sometimes life will deal you a bad hand and you don't feel as though you have much to rejoice about. It could be a medical diagnosis, the loss of employment, the loss of a loved one through divorce, death or estrangement. I admit that at times like these, I don't have much joy and certainly am not inclined to praise my God in a high spirited dance of gladness. Today in chapel at Saint Mary's, my advisee and current student Caroline delivered her junior speech. In her speech, she talked about the gift of joy and rejoicing even in the midst of personal loss and grief. I could only imagine what it would be like to grieve the death of a parent at the age of 14, but that has been Caroline's reality for nearly two years. Although there have been joyous moments and overwhelming grief, she took time to share with her school community how she manages to find joy and understanding even in this life altering loss that she and her family have struggled to cope with and accept.
In our darkest moments, we are called to be a light of joy and shine out so that others among us might find their way, even though we are stumbling along with them in the dark. The opening lines of James' epistle read "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect , so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing" (1:2-4). Rejoicing may seem like a long ways off for you. But it is important to remember that we are people of hope and resiliency held together with the glue of love and faith. I often tell people that even in the midst of our mess, God produces the best. Rejoice!