Rejoice! Again, I say Rejoice! Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and all around the world we light the pink candle on our wreaths. Today also marks Gaudete Sunday which is Latin for “rejoice.” We rejoice because the birth of Jesus is almost here. When I think of the word “rejoice” I think of the joy my nieces and nephew bring to me daily. Especially during this time of year when we gather at Thanksgiving, they lovingly talk my ear off about what they are asking Santa for, the cookies, milk, and reindeer food they are going to leave out for him, their new Christmas dresses for church, and the bold ones who say “I’m going to stay up all night and capture Santa.” I have often told people who are struggling to spend a day or two with young children because they will open your eyes to a beautiful world that is full of hopes, dreams, magic and surprises.
The third week of Advent happens as we also approach the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. In the midst of darkness, we light candles and rejoice for the light among us and the light to come. Even among the difficult things weighing on our minds, (and this year is a lot for many people), we are invited to see the light in the darkness and rejoice with joy filled hearts. In response to Gabriel’s message, Mary looks beyond the complexity of her situation, bravely declaring, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Like Mary, we should rejoice, for there is always good around us, even during difficult times.
Sorrow and joy are two sides of the same coin. In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes: “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Advent reveals that joy and sadness are necessary elements of the cycle of life and salvation history, and one cannot exist without the other. Joy is rooted in the sense of unconditional love. Love that comes from God and is experienced in those around us. Joy requires confidence and trust that this love is real, reliable, and never ending.
Reflecting on the Scriptures for this weekend, we see Isaiah’s confidence at work as he describes his sense of purpose: to bring glad tiding to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and bring release to prisoners. This confidence is rooted in his relationship with God, in what he calls, “the joy of my soul.” Just as John the Baptist knows his relationship with Jesus when he says, “I am not the Messiah…I am a voice in the desert crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord!” Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to live from a sense of joy because God’s love for them has been expressed in Christ Jesus. This week of Advent wants us to renew our sense of purpose and our unique place in the unfolding process of bringing about God’s reign as we anxiously await his arrival.
So on this beautiful Gaudete Sunday, I invite you to reflect on what you are thankful for. During this week, write down things in your life that cause you to rejoice and have a joy filled spirit, then thank God for those blessings.
It’s even among the darkest of days that we can find the smallest glimpse of light. True joy ultimately comes through following God’s will for our lives. It is only in obedience to God, who knows what is best for us, that we will find true fulfillment. In what areas of your life do you need to listen more carefully to God and follow His will more fully?
Again, I say Rejoice! For Jesus Christ, the Savior and Light of the world, born of a virgin in a stable filled with hay is almost here! O’ come let us adore Him!