Sunday, 17 December 2017

Gaudete, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Jn 1:6-8.19-28; 1 Thess 5:16-24; Isa 61:1-2.10-11
If there’s anyone here in the mood to start an argument, then, a good opening gambit would be…
To walk up to someone and say, “So, I’m all ready for Christmas, aren’t you?”

For many of us, this can be a very stressful time of year.
Christmas, is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill among men,
But the build-up to Christmas can be very fraught.
Speaking personally, I’ve not written any Christmas cards yet, I’ve not finished buying my presents, let alone wrapping them, and as for where the turkey will come from -who knows!

This is always a stressful moment for many of us.
Yet, this is the Sunday when the Church bids the priest wear a rose vestment (not girly pink, but manly rose).
This is the Sunday that the Church calls, ‘Gaudate Sunday’ -meaning ‘rejoice’. Thus our second reading was chosen for its opening verse, “Be happy at all times” (1 Thess 5:16).
But WHY should we rejoice amidst the pre-Christmas stress?

In Advent we look ahead to the coming of the Lord.
The Lord has promised He will come.
He has told us of many things He will bring us when He comes, “He will bind up the broken hearted” (Isa 61:1).
This is the hope that Advent looks beyond, to His Coming.

Yet, half-way through Advent the Church bids us pause and remember something:
In a very real way, He is ALREADY here.
He’s not here as He will be in power and glory at the end of time.
He’s not here as fully as He could be in my heart if my heart was more thoroughly cleansed from sin.
YET, He IS already here.

Today’s Gospel gave us a powerful image of this:
It described St John the Baptist talking to the people.
The people were yearning for the coming of the Messiah.
St John the Baptist was there preparing the people by calling them to repent of their sins.
Then, in the midst of that waiting, he says to them, “There stands among you -unknown to you -the One who is coming”(Jn 1:26).
They were waiting, yet He was already there.
They were looking AHEAD, yet He was already there.

If we want to be ready for Christ to come at Christmas, then we need to recognise the ways that He is already here.
If we want to consoled and strengthened as we get ready for Christmas, then we need to recognise the ways that He is already here.

He is here when we pray to Him.
He is here when we read His Bible.
He is here in Holy Communion.
He is here on the Cross when we turn to Him in our suffering.
He is here when we are kind and loving, “to these the least of my brothers”(Mt 25:40).
He is here, already.

So, if you feel ready to have an argument with the next person who asks you if you’re ready for Christmas,
Remember the Church’s “Gaudete” message for you today:
When I’m ploughing through the crowds at Tesco,
When I’m despairing of the time it takes to write cards,
When I don’t know where my turkey will come from, remember:
Rejoice, He is already here.

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