The Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. In the past when people observed Advent with fasting and penitence similar to Lent, this Sunday was a time to celebrate the nearness of Christmas. The scripture selections for this Sunday still reflect the theme of rejoicing, calling us to “rejoice heartily in the Lord.”
Henri Nouwen wrote of joy as an internal orientation that is not dependent on external circumstances, whether they are good or bad. 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. Delving more deeply into the scriptures for the Third Sunday of Advent, we see Isaiah’s confidence at work as he describes his sense of purpose: to bring glad tidings 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.” Similarly, John the Baptizer knows his place in relationship to Jesus, he says: “I am not the Messiah … I am a voice in the desert crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord!” Paul urges 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 is less about seeing Christmas near at hand, and more about renewing our sense of purpose and our unique place in the unfolding process of bringing about God’s reign. The work continues and we have a part to play.