All year long, I cooked the meals and washed those dishes, swept that floor and packed those lunches, and there it hung nearby—an angel hovering over one simple word on a wooden sign: Rejoice.
I used to think joy was an innate personality trait, an edgy perkiness mixed with a little Pollyanna-outlook and perhaps a touch of optimistic delusion.
Over time, though, I’ve learned with stubborn slowness that joy is a choice, a calling, a command even. Paul writes it in scripture, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV).
In all things…always….in every circumstance….choose to rejoice.
Paul writes this without foolish optimism, knowing the cost of discipleship personally after being beaten, stoned, imprisoned, mocked, shipwrecked and more for the cause of the Gospel and the sake of Christ.
Her marriage to Joseph?
And yet, her response to the angel’s announcement and this unexpected pregnancy was indeed to rejoice and to worship.
““Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!….He has done great things,” she sings in her song, The Magnificat (Luke 1:46, 49 NLT).
She worshiped because of the miracle and the glory and she rejoiced despite the difficulty.
In Choose Joy, Kay Warren wrote:
Joy is not about happy feelings. It’s a settled assurance about God. A quiet confidence in God. And a determined choice to praise God in all things.
This is what Paul wrote and what Mary reminds me during this Christmas season, that joy isn’t laughter or a pasted-on-smile or a cheery disposition.
Joy is trusting that in every single circumstance we face, God is in control and is worthy of our worship.
I choose joy.
I choose to worship.
Too often through the year, I’d forget to glance up at my decorative reminder to “Rejoice.” That angel would hang right over my head as I bent low over the stove or the lunch-making or the homework-checking or even the sadness and the stress when life got hard.
Yet, I’d shuffle through my chores without lifting my eyes to see my sign or I’d race through my to-do list without giving it a thought.
Isn’t that what we do too often? We rush, we race, we bow our heads low under the burden and fail to look up?
And it’s in the looking up that we are stirred to rejoice.
Maybe that’s indeed where joy begins, an honest plea for God to open up our eyes to His glory so we don’t miss Him or what He’s doing or the reminder of His presence here in our midst, in our kitchens, in our jobs, in our families, in our blessings, and on our toughest days when looking up takes effort and discipline.
It’s not just Mary either who saw what God was doing and responded with joy-filled praise.
When Zechariah, the father of another miracle baby named John, could speak again after months of God-mandated silence, “immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God” (Luke 1:64 NIV).
He sings his own song:
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,because he has come to his people and redeemed them (Luke 1:68 NIV).
And when Simeon stood in the temple court and saw the baby Jesus in Mary’s arms, he also “praised God” (Luke 2:28 NIV).
Anna, the aged widow did the same, seeing the infant Messiah “she gave thanks to God” (Luke 2:38).
Liz Curtis Higgs writes in The Women of Christmas:
Elizabeth praised God. Mary praised God. When Zechariah’s mouth was opened, he praised God.
Each of them saw what God was doing, perhaps even looked into His very own face, and rejoiced.
So maybe when I feel disinclined to worship, I’ve failed to see, I’ve shut my eyes to His glory and neglected to look up.
Maybe it’s fatigue, or busyness, rebellion, forgetfulness, stress, worry, lack of faith or sin, but always the result is this:
When I look to God, I am compelled to worship, and when I feel like I can’t rejoice, it’s because I’m looking somewhere else.
So, we pray:
Open our eyes to Your glory, Lord. Help us to see Your face. Reveal to us Your presence right here in the midst of our everyday lives. Awaken us to the wonders of Your love.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
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Copyright © 2013 Heather King