Sunday, 11 December 2016
Gaudete Sunday, 3rd Sunday Advent, Year A
If your preparing for Christmas is leaving you a little overwhelmed –unsought presents, unwritten Christmas cards etc,
The let me point out a small but symbolic detail in our West Moors liturgy today: the rose colour of the candle for today on our Advent wreath. Rose, not purple. Twice a year the Church's liturgy, midway through Advent and midway through Lent, calls for the purple to be interrupted by rose. Both Lent and Advent have a certain 'heaviness' about them, and that is lifted in today's liturgy. The heaviness of Lent consists of penance and ‘giving things up’. The heaviness of Advent consists in its focus on The Lord's future coming and our need to PREPARE ourselves for it.
Today's liturgy, however, shifts the focus, it reminds us of something of decisive importance, something that we need to recall WHILE we are waiting:
Even though we are looking for His future Coming in glory,
even though we are getting ready to celebrate his past coming in the flesh,
Even so, He is already among us. He comes to us each day, each moment that our hearts are open to Him. He is present with His grace, in His sacraments, in the teaching and shepherding of His Church, in the guiding hand of His Providence in our lives.
Thus our entrance antiphon said, "Rejoice in The Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, The Lord is at hand."(Phil 4:4-5).
It did not, "Rejoice, He WILL be at hand", but rather, "He IS at hand".
Among the many things that are true about Christmas, it does bring certain problems: there is an obvious irony that for many of us it can be a time of stress and preparation:
Have I finished sending my Christmas cards? Have I bought the presents? Will the presents be good enough?
For others, it can be a time of loneliness, or lost memories.
And, I think we can note, it's because Christmas is such a wonderful thing when it is right, that it can be so difficult when things about it are not right.
This is why it's important to remember what it is REALLY about, and today's "Gaudete ['Rejoice'] Sunday" can help us in this regard.
Even when we've been told something important once, even when we've seen something important once, we can easily forget it. And, in today's context, the important thing we can forget is that The Lord has already come, that The Lord is already with us.
In today’s Gospel: St. John the Baptist had already told his disciples that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but it seems they had forgotten, or not really got the point. Because he sent them again to Jesus so that they could ask Him the question themselves: "Are you the who is to come?"(Mt 11:3)
The Lord's answer is very simple and powerful. He doesn't simply say, "Yes". Instead, He points out that He is doing all the things that it was promised the Messiah would do, as we heard promised in our first reading from Isaiah 35:1-6. The eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, the lame lept, and the dumb were given speech.
For us today, in our issues, worries, burdens, The Lord is here too. We just need to remember how, and put our faith again in His promises, to trust again in His wisdom.
Do you feel burdened? Turn to Him, for He said, "Come to me all you who are weary, for my yoke I easy and my burden light, and you will find rest for your souls"(Mt 11:28-29).
Is the Christmas planning getting to you? Turn to Him, for He said, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has worries enough of its own" (Mt 6:34) "Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and these other things will be added"(Mt 6:33).
So, a rose candle in the midst of Advent purple.
Lifting our mood in the midst of the burden of preparing.
Don't just look forward to His coming, don't just remember that He came once, but rejoice that He is here right now.
"Rejoice in The Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, The Lord is at hand."(Phil 4:4-5).