Sunday, 16 December 2018

Joy-borne-of-hope, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Yr C

Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18
This Christmas, as soon as the last person leaves after the 10am Mass, I’ll be driving home for Christmas. And there are certain moments in the journey when I get a little sense of excitement at the closeness of being home -I’m not there YET, but I somehow sense and anticipate the outcome, even before it arrives:
when I see the town SIGN saying, “Torquay. Welcome to the English Riviera”;
when I get to the SEAfront and the road takes me along beach promenade.
I’ve not yet got home, I’ve not yet greeted my family, and yet, I am somehow anticipating that outcome and some of the joy of that outcome fills me already.

I offer that to you today as an image of the joy that should fill us today, on Gaudete Sunday, this 3rd Sunday of Advent.
Christmas has not come yet,
Christ has not come yet,
And nonetheless, the Church bids us rejoice at His coming -in anticipation.

There is a joy borne of love, when we possess the beloved -in union with them.
There is a different joy that is borne of HOPE, when we do not yet possess, but are confident that we WILL possess. And our advent joy is this joy-borne-of-hope.

Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. This word means ‘rejoice’ and it comes from the Scripture verse we heard in our second reading (Year C):
‘Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, ‘rejoice’!... the Lord is at hand’(Phil 4:4).
There are many things people rejoice in at Christmas, good things:
Family, presents, food -but none of these are ‘the Lord’.
Let us think for a moment about why it is THE LORD that we should rejoice in.

Let us start with the most basic truth of human existence:
We are all SEEKING something, we are all seeking happiness.
Humans disagree about where they will find happiness, and disagree about what happiness looks like, but they all want it. No one wants to be miserable. (St Augustine, Confessions, Bk 3, Ch 2)
If happiness is real, then it is only something truly incredible that can cause it
-our desire is so great,
our yearning is so persistent,
that only something incredible can satisfy it.
Only God, Himself.

We want justice in the world, and we can’t achieve it.
We want love in the world, and there’s not enough of it to go around.
But now, half-way through Advent, we can recall the promise of the One whose coming can bring this,
and MORE.

He has fulfilled His promises in the past,
let us rejoice in the confidence that He will fulfil His promises for the future.
He is “very near”(Phil 4:5).

A final brief point: Let us get ourselves ready.
When the people wanted to be ready for the coming of the Messiah, they asked St John the Baptist, “What must we do?”(Lk 3:10), as our Gospel text opened.
If WE have joy in our heart, not yet the joy of possession, but the joy-borne-of-hope,
then let us ask ourselves “what must we do?” to make ready a place for the Lord in our hearts this Christmas.

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