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Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel Shall Come To Thee O Israel [11-27-22]



Our sermon title is the refrain from a favorite Advent hymn. That refrain is featured prominently in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28. Let's look at it now:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Brothers, pray for us.

Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


There are three great commands in this passage:

  1. REJOICE ALWAYS

  2. PRAY

  3. GIVE THANKS

Our focus is going to be on the first one.


What we know from verse sixteen, plus many other places in Paul's writing, is that despite the afflictions and hardships, the Christian life for him was ultimately one of rejoicing and joy. In fact, a case can be made that joy is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, joy was second on the list, right after love. Even when treated unkindly or harshly, joy was a defining character quality in his life. Can you do that most of the time? Do you do that most of the time? Will you do that most of the time?


There's a song, while not written for Advent, grew so popular that people asked to sing it during the Christmas season. We know what it is. "{Blank} to the World." What is it? Right…Joy to the World. Emphatically joyful.


As we see in these three great commands…rejoice, give thanks, and pray…the church is called to gather for worship not primarily to meet the needs of their members. The primary reason we gather for worship is to rejoice…to pray…and to give God the thanksgiving that He is owed for His gracious work in our lives and in the world. I hope that makes sense to you. Worship is not primarily about our needs and wants. It is about praising God from who all blessings flow. And in the context of chapter five, it is not an option, but a commandment.


I love how "Rejoice Always," is bracketed out as one verse. Short but packing a powerful punch. Here's its application you might want to write down:

THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN OCCUR IN YOUR LIFE THAT SHOULD DIMINISH YOUR CHRISTIAN JOY.


Before we dig deeper, I want to connect this truth with the supporting command in verse eighteen - give thanks in all circumstances. These two commands work together…rejoice and give thanks.


There's one distinction in "give thanks" to make note of. Notice Paul doesn't say, "Give thanks for everything." He says, "Give thanks in everything." Clearly, there are things we should never be thankful for. There are specific trials and tribulations that we endure because we live in a sinful, fallen world. We would never be thankful for general or specific suffering. Yet, even in these situations, we do express gratitude to God for His presence and strength in hardship. We give God thanks that we don't face these hardships alone. We know that no matter how painful these hardships are, "Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus" {Romans 8:38-39}. We give thanks in all things because God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose {Romans 8:28}.

Let me say that one more time…THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN OCCUR IN YOUR LIFE THAT SHOULD DIMINISH YOUR CHRISTIAN JOY. To some people, that might sound delusional. It might even sound ridiculous, given the woes and travails in this life. Yet, as weird as it sounds, here as well as elsewhere, the Bible says to rejoice in all things. As we've seen in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." And it's almost as if Paul anticipates an objection. Rejoice always? So Paul adds, "Again I will say, rejoice." Emphatic. Even when we're weeping, we are not relieved from the responsibility to rejoice.


There is paradox to our Christian faith. Paul wrote those words in Philippians 4 from prison. In 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul says, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything."


In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in

heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Those are our marching orders, from the King of the Universe, born in Bethlehem. What a beautiful paradox our faith is. AT ALL TIMES, BE REJOICING.


If we are called to rejoice always and give thanks in all things, what would you say is the opposite of that attitude? If it were up to me to decide, I'd call it ingratitude. For Paul, ingratitude was symptomatic of pagan depravity. Listen to Romans 1:21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

There's no room for Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" in December. I don't like mopey songs or mopey worship services. Rejoice and be glad…for this day, in the City of David, a Savior is born to you…He is Christ the Lord.


Our rejoicing and thanksgiving are sometimes in spite of:

  • Acts 5:40-42 - "And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."

  • Luke 6:22-23 - "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets."

  • John 16:20 - "You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy."

  • 1 Peter 1:6 - "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials."

  • Psalm 32:11 - "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!"


We are an odd bunch. Rejoicing always. Thankful in all things. Great is our joy. Our joy is to be abundant. Our joy is to be exceeding. Our joy springs from the knowledge that God wrote our names down in the Lamb's Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. God chose us to follow Him. God is in charge. He is in perfect control. Joy has nothing to do with outside situations or circumstances. Joy is rooted in the assurance that God is in control. And so, all things work together for good, for those who are called by God according to His purpose. That is Christian joy. Amen?


Here's something else you might want to write down:

JOY IS AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE ABOUT OUR GOD.

In other words, we rejoice because of the goodness the Lord has shown. The joy doesn't end with the good news of a baby born in Bethlehem. Joy moves beyond the manger to the glory of eternity. We rejoice because we are saved. And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.


Finally, let's jump ahead to the beautiful affirmation of verse twenty-six:

Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to ask you all to get up and…no, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to explain what Paul means.


This is simply a manifestation of the love that exists in the Body of Christ.

There is affection. There are expressions of kindness and appreciation. That's what I love about Covenant Church. We encourage…we affirm…we greet lovingly…we do things that show we want peace and love and understanding in this place. How good is that? I love this church…and by that, I mean the people of this church. We are growing in the sense of oneness we have in Christ.


Check out what this sweet little girl did during a communion service:

  • Show Video

No need to overthink this. It is simply a beautiful expression of love and affection. Joy to the world…


Let's Pray:

HEAVENLY FATHER, HELP US SEE BEYOND OUR PERSONAL DIFFICULTIES. THANK YOU FOR OUR SPIRITUAL RICHES. WE REJOICE THAT OUR GLORIOUS ETERNAL FUTURE IS GREATER THAN ANY PRESENT PAIN. FATHER, IT'S BEEN GOOD TO BE IMMERSED, AT THE START OF ADVENT, IN THESE WONDERFUL

TRUTHS. IN JESUS' NAME. AMEN.


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