December 12, 2021

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Old Testament Lesson; Zephaniah 3:14-17

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 130

Gospel Lesson; Luke 3:7-18                          

Sermon Text; Philippians 4:4-7


Sung by Pastor Tweit:  “Rejoice.  Rejoice.  Rejoice greatly.  Rejoice O daughter of Zion.”

So begins a very familiar portion of Handel's Messiah.  It is one of the parts, and one of the scenes we sing during the Christmas Season.  The reason we sing part of Handel's Messiah during the Christmas Season is because it is Advent.  It is in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

Now, I did two things wrong there, as I tried to sing Handel's Messiah for you.  The two things wrong are this.  I am not a soprano voice.  Handel wanted a female voice to sing that part.  The second part I did wrong is I sang it way too slow.  It is supposed to be sung much faster than that, but I wanted to focus on the words.  So, I slowed it down. 

Technically, Handel was talking about a prophesy from the book of Zechariah, chapter nine. 


See your King is coming

O daughter of Zion.” 

Really, our Old Testament Lesson for today, from Zephaniah had that same theme in it, when it said this. 

“Sing out, daughter of Zion! 

...rejoice with all your heart...”

Handel's Messiah expresses great joy.

That is what today is all about.  Today is known as Rejoice Sunday.  The Latin word 'Gaudete' means 'rejoice'.  We rejoice, as we anticipate the near coming of our Savior. 

It was just a little bit ago that we lit the third Advent Candle, The Shepherds' Candle.  We lit that candle, and we rejoiced with them, because of the message they heard.  The Savior had been born.

During the Advent Season, not only do we prepare for Jesus' coming as a baby, but we also prepare ourselves for Jesus' second coming, when He comes as Judge, as our text for today says,

“The Lord is near.” 

So, let us rejoice at the Lord's coming deliverance.

We hear God's Word from Philippians, chapter four, looking at verses four through seven.  The Apostle Paul wrote:


Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


This is God's Word.


Paul, the Apostle Paul, wrote the words of our text about thirty years after Jesus had ascended in to Heaven.  Paul is in prison at the time he writes these words, and technically, the book of Philippians is a thank you note.  So, he is writing this thank you note to the people, the Christians in Philippi, for the prayers they had prayed for him, and for the offerings they had given to the church.  But, the Apostle Paul never let an opportunity go by to also have a purpose in his letter, or to have a purpose in his thank you note. 

So, here is a purpose that he put in to the book of Philippians, the thank you note. The purpose that he wrote to the Philippians was to encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution, and to rejoice regardless of their circumstances. 

Now, for us today, I want to change just two words so you know that what the Apostle Paul wrote about two thousand years ago, he is also writing to you.  So, I am going to say it this way.  Today the purpose is this.  It is to encourage you to stand firm in the face of persecution, and to rejoice regardless of your circumstances.

Is it possible for a Christian to have joy in their heart, when they are troubled by problems?  The answer is, “Yes”. 

We can have joy in our hearts, when we are troubled with problems.  Consider the Apostle Paul, again.  He was in prison, when he wrote these words.  And yet, he said this near the very beginning of his letter. 

“It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard, and to everyone else, that I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fiercely.”
And so, there the Apostle Paul was able to have joy in his heart even though he was going through problems.

Consider Joseph, from The Old Testament.  Last week, as I was teaching Catechism Class, I asked my students this, when I said, “Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?  Imagine your sibling sells you into slavery.  Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” 

In a big chorus they said, “Of course, that is a bad thing.”

Imagine your brother selling you into slavery.  That is what happened to Joseph.  And yet, near the end of his life, after his father had passed away, and his brothers thought he was going to take revenge against them, here is what Joseph said to his brothers.  He could have joy in his heart, even though he had gone through troubles. 

“You intended to harm me,

but God intended it for good,

the saving of many people.”

He could have joy in his heart, even though he was enduring problems. 

I have a friend here at Holy Cross, who a number of years ago had cancer.  While she was going through cancer, her mantra, she went straight to God's Word.  Here is a Bible passage that gave her great comfort, and great hope, even though she was going through 'problems'.  (That is what she called her cancer.  She called it a problem.)  Romans 12:12 says this. 

“Be joyful in hope,

patient in affliction

and faithful in prayer.”

Even though she had 'the problem' of cancer, she could be joyful in hope.

Now, let's get even more personal than that.  Can a believer have joy in their heart, even when they are maybe feeling the guilt of their previous sins?  Or, can we have joy in our heart, as we are burdened with our current sins?  The answer is, “Yes”. 

Maybe you are burdened, because of an abortion that took place earlier in life.  Or, maybe you are burdened, because you have had sex outside of marriage.  Or, you lie.  Or, you cheat.  Or, you steal.  Or, you have an alcohol problem. 

Can we have joy in our heart, even as we are burdened with our previous sins, and our current sins?  The answer is, “Yes”. 

Again, consider the Apostle Paul who wrote the words of our text.  He said, “I was once a blasphemer.  I was once a persecutor.  I was once a violent man.  And yet, the Lord has shown me mercy.”  

We can say the same thing, as we come with our sins that burden us from our past, and with our sins we are currently experiencing.  We can say the same thing. 

The Lord has shown me mercy.

On this third weekend of The Advent Season, as we anticipate Jesus' coming, one of those themes we gather under is Jesus' second coming, when He will come as our Judge.  Our text for today simply says,

“The Lord is near.”

As the Lord is near, I know we come with our struggles, problems, and our burdens.  And, it might even be the case you are being persecuted, because of what you believe.  You are being persecuted for being a Christian, for believing in Jesus, as your Savior.  And yet, the Apostle Paul says,

“Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” 

Have that patient steadfastness, and he says it in these three ways.  We can have that gentleness in everything, “by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving...”.

So, the Apostle Paul, in God's Word, says don't' be anxious.  Don't be worried.  The Greek word there means 'to have a divided mind', to be worried about something, to be anxious about something.  Instead of being anxious, and instead of being worried, keeping things to our self, the Apostle Paul says,

“ everything,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

let your requests be made known to God.”

As I teach Catechism Class, I love to make sure the students know the memory work they are learning is not useless, but it is tying in to the material we are learning for the day, or for the week.  Such was the case this past week, as the students are getting ready to learn a passage from 1 Peter, five, verse seven.  It says basically what Paul says here. 

“Cast all your anxiety on Him,

because He cares for you.”

So, they review the memory work in anticipation for the next week.  During the course of the lesson, we might come across that same passage.  I usually say it this way, “Does that passage sound familiar to you?” 

By this time in the school year, they all nod their heads, and they are like, “Of course it sounds familiar, because that is our memory work for next week.”

But, don't be anxious, and don't worry. 

“Do not worry about anything,

but in everything,

by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God.”

We can rejoice in the Lord's coming deliverance.  I am going to put it three ways. 

We can rejoice in...

We can rejoice because...

We can rejoice even though...

We can rejoice today in Jesus. 

The reason we can rejoice in Jesus today is because of something the Apostle Paul wrote earlier in his thank you note to the Philippians.  Here is what he said about Jesus. 

“Jesus made Himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness. 

And, being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled Himself,

and became obedient to death,

even death on a cross.”

Today we rejoice in Jesus, because He is true God, and He is true Man, and He came for you.  

We rejoice because of Jesus. 

We can rejoice because...

Again, just right before our text for today, here is what the Apostle Paul said about Jesus. 

“We eagerly await a Savior from Heaven,

our Lord Jesus Christ

who will change our lowly bodies

so that they will be like His glorious body.”

We rejoice, because of Jesus, because He came to be our Savior. 

Do you remember when Joseph, in The New Testament was pledged to be married to Mary, and he found out she was expecting a child?  He wanted to divorce her quietly.  An angel came to Joseph, and said this. 

“What is conceived inside of Mary is from the Holy Spirit.”

Then, the angel said,

“She will give birth to a Son. 

You are to give Him the name Jesus,

because He will save His people from their sins.” 

Today we rejoice because of Jesus. 

-We rejoice, because He came to be our Savior. 

-And, we rejoice, as we look forward to the Lord being near, and the Lord coming to be our Judge.

Now, we can rejoice 'even though'... 

-We can rejoice even though we are going through struggles right now. 

-We can rejoice even though we are going through problems right now. 

So, what are the problems, what are the challenges, and what are the struggles you are going through in life, right now?   Again, consider the Apostle Paul, and the 'even though' challenges he had of being in prison.

I want to close today with these two things.  I want to introduce you to somebody, whose name is Frances Jane van Alsteine.  She had some 'even though' challenges in life.  Raise your hand, if you know who Frances Jane van Alsteine is.  I am happy nobody knows, so I get to tell you about her.

Frances Jane van Alsteine was born in 1820.  She was born in New York.  She was a poet.  She was a lyricist.  She was a mission worker.  And, she wrote more than 8,000 hymns. 

When she was just a few weeks old, Frances Jane van Alsteine was visually impaired.  She was blind.  But, even though she had 'even though' challenges, she could rejoice. 

When she was ten years old, she was memorizing five chapters from The Bible each week.  That is pretty impressive. 

When she was fifteen years old, she had memorized the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  She had memorized the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and many of the Psalms. 

Later in life, Frances Jane van Alsteine got married.  She had a baby daughter who died in infancy.  So, you talk about some 'even though' challenges that Francis Jane was going through, and Frances Jane was enduring, and yet she could rejoice.

She wrote a hymn that did not become very popular here in The United States, but it became very popular in Europe.  It was not until 1954 that this particular hymn that she wrote became very popular here in The United States.  It is because a young preacher by the name of Billy Graham had picked up that hymn, and made it part of his crusades.  (There is a verse that we are going to sing at the very end of our service.)  The hymn is this. 

To God be the glory. 

Great things He has done. 

He so loved the world

that He gave us His Son.    

To God be the glory.  She could give glory to God, and rejoice 'even though' the challenges, and struggles she went through.  Now you may not know who Frances Jane van Alsteine is, but many of you probably know her according to her maiden name, that she wrote those hymns under.  Her name is Fanny Crosby.  She wrote that hymn.

I close with this.  Philippi was a military town.  Many Roman soldiers came to retire in Philippi.  So, the Philippians were very used to Roman soldiers walking around in their community, and standing guard at the gates.  The residents of the city of Philippi were very comforted knowing they were guarded.  And, the residents of the city of Philippi could rejoice.  They could rejoice at the Lord's coming deliverance. 

Today we can do the same thing.  As we gather together for worship on this third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday, we can rejoice at the Lord's coming deliverance.  The same peace that guarded the Philippians is the same peace we have, as we close with a very familiar sentence with our sermon today. 

The peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding,

guard your hearts and minds,

in Christ Jesus. 



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forevermore.