Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
If you have been worshipping with us with any regularity this Advent you will notice a slight variation this morning in our liturgical colors. The traditional Sarum blue is normally flanked by earthy green and highlights of crimson, all colors that represent the mystery of the Incarnation; that is, God becoming flesh and blood, putting on our human vesture in the womb of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Just as future parents prepare themselves for the birth of a child, so this season of Advent is a time for prayer, recollection, and getting our lives in order in preparation for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. But today, the Sarum blue is complimented by swatches of velvety rose to signify the third Sunday of Advent which is known as ‘Gaudete’ Sunday. Gaudete, the Latin word for “Rejoice,” is the first word we hear in both the Introit[i] to today’s Mass from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice,” as well as the Epistle from his letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” Gaudete Sunday is a day of rejoicing!
John 1:6-8, 19-28
The name for this season in the Church year, “Advent,” derives from the Latin, adventus, which means “a coming, an approach, an arrival”: the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, whom we as Christians know as Jesus. Meanwhile, we wait. If we were to open the Gospel accounts according to Matthew and Luke, we discover a great many people waiting for the Messiah, the Christ. Mary and Joseph are waiting. Zechariah and Elizabeth, Symeon and Anna, are waiting. Shepherds who are waiting. There are some sages from the east – wisemen – who are waiting. The only persons who are not waiting are in Bethlehem, the keepers of an inn. And there’s no room in the inn. They’re all full up. It’s almost impossible to wait if you are full up, because waiting takes space; to be able to wait requires an openness or emptiness. And that’s a particular challenge and problem, especially here in our own culture.
The genius of the Scriptures is how completely they mirror human nature. From the heights of love, to the depths of hate. From confident trust to the most lurid cynicism and cruelty. From the darkness of deep despair to the brilliant light of unmitigated joy. The human condition is all there.