Rejoice is a word I have known since early childhood. I think I first encountered it in a hymn; specifically in the hymn "On Our Way Rejoicing" which my childhood memory insists was sung at the close of worship, every single Sunday in the summer. There must be something true in that memory, because it is so specific, but I doubt we sang it every week. I will likely never know the answer to that, but I can still wrap my memory of events, however garbled, around me and feel again the well-being that accompanied the word rejoice.
Rejoice is a rich and complex word and is entirely suitable for the Easter season. A word I can use with confidence but not readily define. It's a feeling, an action, an attitude.
A Feeling: Happiness is close, but for me rejoicing has to do with being happy about something profound, and outside of my control. Like the resurrection, or, for those less religiously entrenched, the fall of the Berlin wall, a new baby, a profound act of kindness or heroism: an event that seems too good to be true, an event or encounter that gives hope.
An Action: Rejoicing is to acknowledge, affirm and celebrate those things that inspire the feeling. To rejoice is to sing about, talk about, write about, or take new steps because of the hope that has been generated by the event that gave rise to the feeling.
An Attitude: To set aside cynicism and choose to rejoice, to hope rather than to expect the worst. To go to a wedding with hope that the couple will be married forever and die, still loving one another, 65 years from now, rather than dwelling on the statistics that say 50% of marriages will end in divorce and standing around saying "it'll never last."
Rejoicing may be like gratitude - an attitude that profoundly changes the person who practices it. So why not practice as a family? Do the neighbors have a new baby? Rejoice with them - take over some food, let the children choose a small toy for the baby, and maybe turn them loose on the driveway with some sidewalk chalk to welcome the newest neighbor. This is rejoicing - sharing in someone's joy. It goes beyond a perfunctory acknowledgement of an event - it participates in the joy! Think of how that new baby will be welcomed from babyhood into childhood by your children. If they cheered his birth, they will also rejoice in his first steps, first tricycle ride, and growing independence.
Every Sunday Christians gather to rejoice in the risen Lord. We gather to rejoice in the profound hope and joy we have because of the Easter events.
So, in this Easter season, practice "rejoicing", for Christ is risen!