Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. – Philippians 4:4

This very short verse from Paul’s letter to the Phillippians may not contain a lot of words, but the encouragement therein couldn’t say more about our faith.

This Sunday’s Advent candle lighting theme is joy. During Christmas one of my favorite hymns is “Joy to the World” because it depicts the happiness and exaltation that we as Christians experience in celebrating the birth of Christ.

However, there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on our circumstances and even “how well things are going.” Think of the times when you are happiest in life and they are likely to be exclusively those moments when something positive was happening.

Joy is something that is much deeper. Joy is something that is inherent within us. Joy goes beyond our present circumstances and speaks to our what’s in our hearts in good times and in bad.

Rick Warren defines joy like this, and it’s helpful to discern how it goes beyond just being content with our circumstances and connects us with the divine:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Not just in the good times, but in all times. Rejoice because God reigns. Rejoice because Christ saves. Rejoice because the Holy Spirit sustains. Again I will say, rejoice.