It was a rough night for sure: Paul and Silas had been preaching the gospel in Philippi when they fell into trouble with some of the Gentiles in the city. A miraculous exorcism led to a great big mess that got the two apostles arrested. They were beaten, chained and put in prison without a trial – injustice pervaded all circumstances. (Acts 16:16-40).
Just how did Paul and Silas react to all of this? Did they seek revenge? Did they retreat into a depression? Did they wonder if the gospel they preached was really worth all this trouble?
None of the above. Actually, they rejoiced and sang hymns of praise to God in the midst of all their pain.
While their bodies were bleeding and their bones ached, their hearts were full of faith.
It was this form of holding onto his faith, even in most difficult situations, that inspired Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice Always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Advent is a time for all Christians to rejoice. It’s a time to reflect on the Old Testament prophets who announced that a Messiah from God would come to rescue His people. It’s a time to meditate on Mary, to look at why she could rejoice, even as her world was turning upside down. It’s a time to look at Paul and ask, “Why was he able to rejoice even after he was beaten and imprisoned?”
Let’s face it: things just don’t always go our way; life can sometimes have a few painful twists and turns. When Paul told us to rejoice, it wasn’t because he thought that Christianity is about “doing the happy dance” – quite the contrary! Paul is speaking about rejoicing in the Lord always because God has done great things for us; because He is always with us and because He loves us unconditionally.
Remember on Christmas night, the angel of the Lord announced “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Then a host of angels appeared, proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (2:14). These words tell us to rejoice because God is going to help and strengthen us when things are going well in our lives as well as when we face difficulties.
Father God, as the earth makes way for the coming of Your Son, please prepare our hearts and remove anything that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope that Paul describes in His writings.
Judi Lynn Lake has kept up with leading edge business trends throughout her varied and successful career. She had already had her "15 minutes of fame" over and over again before starting her family. Judi and her family now reside in South Carolina, but, having been born and raised on Long Island, NY, it is clearly evident that she will always be a "New Yorker." Today, she successfully runs her own advertising agency which handles everything from logos, branding and package design while she continues to work closely with self-published authors from design to promotion. For more information, visit judilake.com
***The following video, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, courtesy of You Tube.