Friday, December 15, 2017

Rejoice! (Really?) Really!

This Third Sunday of Advent calls us to rejoice. Traditionally, this Sunday has been known as Gaudete Sunday from the first Latin word of the appointed Introit. The Latin command, Gaudete, is also echoed in the readings for this Sunday from Psalm 126 and Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: Rejoice always.

As we make our way through some of the darkest and coldest days and as many deal with health concerns and worry, it may be difficult to summon the ability to rejoice in demonstrable ways. Does that make us unfaithful?  I think not. Yet, even in the face of all the trials we may face, we also can receive the grace to rejoice. We may not be able to jump around on some beachfront property with our friends at dawn's first light, but we are together with others around Word and Sacrament, forgiveness, and blessing. These gifts wield the power to propel our despair to the sidelines.

Paul closes his letter to the church at Thessalonica with clear directives:
Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
We have our work cut out for us!  While we know how to rejoice, pray, and give thanks, it is often an up-hill battle to do so always, constantly, and everywhere. Are we being set up for failure? Are the expectations too unrealistic?

Maybe life was simpler then. Paul had no idea how complicated and conflicted our lives would become. What do you think? 

The picture directly above is a detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald in the early 16th century. Pointing away from himself and toward the crucified Christ is John the Baptist. His index finger is intently leading our gaze to behold the suffering Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  

It is this same Christ who is the coming One. He is the One for whom we prepare in these Advent days by clearing away the clutter, repenting, and reprioritizing so that our hearts may be drawn unto Him for rest, refreshment, and rejoicing!

Third Sunday of Advent
December 17, 2018

Prayer of the Day
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, 
and open our ears to the words of your prophets, 
that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28