Even after the year we’ve had, there are still reasons to express joy.
Rejoice? Now? After all we’ve been through and are going through? Yes! Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4).
The word has a special resonance for me, especially as we celebrate the new year. And growing up for me in Pasadena, California, that meant the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl on January 1 (unless it fell on a Sunday…and then it was January 2).
In 1984, my dad was head of the volunteer organization that puts on the annual Tournament of Roses. Every year the Rose Parade and game have a theme. And as president, Dad was trying to come up for a slogan for his year.
He wanted something that communicated his deep faith but also something that would communicate with people. Words carried on a banner down Colorado Boulevard that would make people smile, make them give thanks.
“Rejoice,” he decided. Just one word. Rejoice. And that year as he led the parade, waving from a horse-drawn carriage decorated with roses, he called to the crowd, so often and loudly that he barely had a voice at the end of the day: “Rejoice!”
Easy enough to get dewy-eyed and nostalgic, thinking back, “Well, things were different in those days.” Easy enough to forget how the nation was still recovering from a huge recession and the unemployment rate still high. People had suffered, were suffering.
Let’s go to another verse from the Bible, this too from the Apostle Paul. “More than that,” he wrote, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…” (Romans 5:3).
Wow. Think about that. It boggles the mind. Suffering can be an opportunity for growth, spiritual and mental. Especially when we look at it with rejoicing. Trusting in God, learning how to hope when hope seems so hard to find.
Our friend Debbie Macomber always chooses a word for the year. A different one every year. For the first time ever, I’m going to mimic her practice. And make my word, “Rejoice.” Asking God to help me see and find what there is to rejoice in.
Even write it down. Debbie does that, too. Keeping a journal of thankfulness, recording at least five items in it every day. Now there’s a great prayer practice.