Surprised by Joy in the New Year


My phone bonged while driving to the office today. Evidently, when there is an important national news story, my phone departs from the normal vibrate mode and lets out a big bong. In this case, it was a new study showing that 2017 has created anxiety at alarming proportions for many Americans, such that they are entering the new year with a palpable sense of dread. Against this backdrop, I proceeded to the office to study 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 where Paul explains why Christians can rejoice with good courage in the face of anxiety.

Chained to a Roman soldier, awaiting his appearance before Caesar, Paul knew that his life might soon be “poured out like a drink offering” (Phil 2:17). Talk about anxiety! Nevertheless, in the same verse he exclaims: “I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” In fact, Paul believed so firmly in the joy-inducing empowerment of God that he mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” 14 times. Here is a look at the theological outlook that gives rise to such joy from 2 Cor 4:8-18:

4:8a We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed

4:8b perplexed, but not in despair

4:9a persecuted, but not abandoned

4:9b struck down, but not destroyed

4:10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body

4:11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body

4:16 Therefore we don’t lose heart

4:16b Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day

4:17 For our light and momentary troubles, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all

4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Paul apparently found it impossible to consider death without simultaneously seeing the resurrection of Christ. Because Jesus has risen, joy has been set free.

Finally, below is a recording of my Advent homily in which I explain how the particular way Christ came to this world is the reason we can rejoice in all circumstances.

photo by Stephen Leonardi at Point Reyes National Seashore, Inverness, United States.

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