“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say it rejoice!” Philippians 4:7
Everyone knows Pat and Vanna. They’ve hosted the Wheel of Fortune, I believe, since the start of the Renaissance. But do you know the origins of the real “wheel of fortune?”
You find the wheel of fortune in some medieval European churches. It is a wheel, usually with four characters on the four cardinal points, and sometimes with Latin inscriptions. At the top is a man who appears to be a king, and the words “I reign” describe his lofty post.
At the three o’clock position is a figure who appears to be falling. The words “I reigned” explain his descent. He once was on top, but no more.
At the bottom is a sad figure who says, “I will never reign.” He’s lost all hope. Success and happiness are distant memories. All he knows now, and is convinced all he will ever know, is despair.
At the nine o’clock position is a striving figure who declares “I shall reign!” His best days are ahead of him, and he is full of hope and confidence.
What’s this all about? First, we all find ourselves somewhere on the wheel at this very moment. We may be riding high or sitting at the bottom, or somewhere in between. But all wheels turn. So, if you’re at the bottom you can be certain that fortunes will change. That’s what they do. You will experience some kind of victory that restores your hope. You’ll get the job, or the raise, or the relationship will heal. Something will happen that lifts your spirits. Don’t lose hope.
However, if you’re at the top, you can rest assured that something will come along to bring you down a few ticks. Yes, the hard times will pass. That is encouraging. But the good times will pass also. That is the truth. The wheel of fortune turns.
One final detail about the wheel holds the key. In some depictions at the very center is the cross or the figure of Jesus. The one fixed point of the turning wheel is Christ. Fortunes are made and lost daily. Victories and losses are temporary. Only Jesus is eternal.
The point? Don’t live on the outside of the wheel. Don’t take a spin on it. You’ll constantly alternate between happiness, discontent, and sadness. You’ll just get dizzy and sick.
Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin for joy. That is the theme for the week, joy. One of the lectionary readings is Paul’s words “Rejoice! And again I say rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). It’s an imperative (just like the Latin gaudete), and Paul repeated it for emphasis.
Can you really command joy? The key to this verse, like the wheel, is the phrase “in the Lord.” If we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, then we will discover His gift of joy. Joy is the certainty that all is well in the Lord no matter where you are on the wheel. Fortunes rise and fall. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Advent is about allowing Jesus to come again into our lives in a new and fresh way. He’s the one thing you can count on. Always. I pray you find that constancy in Christ this week, for there you will discover joy.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 13, 2021