Advent 3 – Gaudete Sunday

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Title:Advent 3 – Gaudete Sunday

 Advent 3, Dec. 16, 2018 (full size gallery)

Wow! 54 people in church today for Advent 3 which dispelled all the rainy weather we have had all weekend. We also brought in our Christmas tree which people brought ornaments to decorate and then during the Peace told whey they brought them. We also lit 3 Advent candles, singing “Candle Glowing”, the Moravian hymn that we have done for the past two Sundays The choir’s anthem “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” was wonderful. It was performed in front and they received applause.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That iconic line from the 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” seems pretty off-base just a little more than a week away from Christmas, doesn’t it? Stop and look around? But, wait, isn’t this supposed to be a season of joy? Look around at the shoppers and you wonder. This Sunday we get back to that

This mid-Advent celebration offers us a short timeout to stop, catch our breath and refocus on the joy and purpose of the season. And if we didn’t notice the change in the Advent message this week, the rose-colored candle only during Advent 3 certainly provide a subtle stop — or at least a slowdown — sign for us.

The third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete Sunday.” Its name is taken from the entrance antiphon of the Mass, which is: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. This is a quotation from Philippians 4:4-5, and in Latin, the first word of the antiphon is “gaudete”. We are most of the way through the season, closer to Christ’s birth and so that is the emphasis rather than coming again.

We light the rose colored candle in addition to the other 2 violet ones. Purple is a penitential color of fasting while pink (rose) is the color of joy. Long ago the Pope would honor a citizen with a pink rose (or a rose) Priests then would wear pink vestments as a reminder of this coming joy. Rose is also used during Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of lent) to symbolize a similar expectation of the coming joy of Christ’s coming in Easter. The third Sunday of Advent is rose (pink) because pink symbolizes joy, the joy that Jesus is almost here. Adult Christian Ed discussed “Rejoice! What promises of God give you cause to rejoice?”

Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away.” Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and that our joy may become complete. As Nouwen says, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

The readings for Gaudete Sunday deal with rejoicing in the Lord — Christian joy — as well as the mission of John the Baptist and his connection with Advent.

Today’s readings celebrate God’s promise of freedom, forgiveness and healing. The prophet Zephaniah assures God’s people of approaching victory and gladness. Joy is the keyword in today’s reading from Philippians, as Paul urges his readers to rest fully in God and know God’s deep, abiding peace. John the Baptist announces the imminent arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, who will bring forgiveness, cleansing and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading from Zephaniah. Within the first three lines we hear the words “joy,” “joyful” and “glad. Zephaniah’s ministry took place during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BCE) before the fall of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon. Zephaniah’s book foretells the coming “day of the Lord,” the reckoning day when God first judges the unfaithful and then rewards the faithful.

Today’s passage, like many other prophetic messages, concludes Zephaniah’s message on a note of comfort and jubilant hope. It presents a picture of the salvation of the people and the ultimate restoration of Jerusalem after God’s judgement has been carried out. The promise in verse 17 encapsulates the revelation to God’s people. Power and tenderness unite in God’s relationship with humanity to produce final victory and great joy.

Canticle 9 is also upbeat. This canticle combines two short hymns: Isaiah 12:1-2 and 12:3-6. They both present “the day of the Lord” as a new exodus, echoing the song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-2. The first song, similar to Psalm 116, describes deliverance. The second is a song of thanksgiving, perhaps referring to the miraculous gift of water during the Israelites’ desert wanderings (Exodus 15:25-27; 17:1-7).

God’s provision for the people’s thirst symbolized the divine provision for their spiritual thirst. The people will rejoice at the presence of the transcendent Holy One in their midst. These two psalms serve as the climax to the prophecies in chapters 7–11. After the divine judgment, God’s final word is one of consolation and joy.

Philippians continues the upbeat them of the Old Testament. In fact, within the first three lines we hear the words “joy,” “joyful” and “glad. In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul encourages the Philippians to recognize and establish joy as the atmosphere of their life. Their participation in the past sufferings of Christ and in his present lordship, and their anticipation of his glorious return in the future are the context for their life together now. This joyful lifestyle means that they can be gracious, unselfish, free from anxiety, bold in prayer and thankful as they make their needs known to God. Then peace beyond understanding, peace in the midst of trial, will be theirs.

Finally, Paul offers a list of commonly recognized Greek virtues as a guide, for whatever is good in human life is incorporated into life in Christ. He also offers himself as a model for imitation and a guide for the Philippians’ behavior.

The Gospel is about John the Baptist as was the case in Advent 2. The message doesn’t see good news when he warns the jews – “You brood of vipers!” Do not rely on your history (Abraham).

The sermon points out that John’s message was good news in that it provided a warning – you need to change now and secondly you can do it now by loving your neighbor and lastly the Messiah is coming and “is even more challenging and powerful than John the Baptist is.” “This Messiah who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The people who are waiting and longing for the Messiah will receive the Holy Spirit and be set on fire for God and become witnesses to God’s refining and redeeming love to the ends of the earth.”

In this section, John the Baptist preaches the good news of forgiveness and of the coming of a new relationship with God. John’s baptism is a symbolic and prophetic act, the outward sign of a changed inner self. But he makes clear that repentance or changing one’s life has many practical implications. Those who have are to share with those who have not; tax collectors are to cease their extortion (19:8); and soldiers are to cease brutality and blackmail.

The mightier one who is coming, identified with the Messiah, will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” two images that are often associated with God’s power and judgment (12:49). John’s image is of a baptism of judgment (3:9, 17) rather than one that is purgative and salvific. The conjunction of Holy Spirit and fire may also be a reference to Pentecost. John preaches the good news of forgiveness and of the coming of a new relationship with God.

But John warns that the power to live a truly new life is yet to come. God’s people will only experience this promotion when God’s Messiah comes among them, bringing a new baptism—baptism with God’s Holy Spirit.

We look back at our old lives and rejoice that, through baptism, God promoted us to live truly new lives.