Third Sunday of Advent
December 13, 2020
Dear Followers of the Long-Awaited-One,
We wait for the promised Light of Christ. This Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called, “Gaudete Sunday”, which means, “Rejoice”. We do not pretend to wait for Jesus to be born today, because he has already done so. We rejoice because it is half-way to Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, God-Made-Flesh. We know that Jesus Christ is the long-awaited-one, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. We rejoice because we already know that redemption and forgiveness are from Christ Jesus. We rejoice because we are redeemed in his passion, death and resurrection.
John the Baptist is back in the center of our conversation this weekend. John came to testify to the Light, the radiant splendor of Jesus Christ. John still helps us all depend on the Light to find our way out of the darkness and into a place of generativity and justice. John is the mouthpiece of hope and opens the pathway to divine beauty and love in the face of Jesus. Jesus is radiant in forgiveness and justice, his face shines from the glory of heaven. I pray we may find out who we are as followers of Christ, so that we may shed our darkness and learn to follow him.
If we are to hear John’s plea of testimony to the Light, we must first befriend the darkness that surrounds us. This is where our personal prayer comes in. We are all tempted during this season to stray from our own prayer. Even in pandemic, we are busy preparing for Christmas. We are invited to prepare for Christmas by first exploring what it means within our hearts. Every year, I watch parents in particular, struggle to make ends meet and wind up on Christmas Eve, exhausted and frustrated. They feel completely spent and angry. There is nothing left within them. They have given everything to their children and there is nothing left in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.
Along the way of Advent, we all need to create a life of deeper prayer. It is not worth the effort to show our children that Christmas is all about stuff we accumulate so to look better than a neighbor or relative. Maybe this year in pandemic, we could finally take some new realities to heart. I know so many families are so stressed out because our isolation has been so long. However, I believe we still have lessons to learn. I know Jesus, who is among us, shall not leave us empty on Christmas. We must first muster the courage to be with him in our anguish and in our questions about life.
Perhaps we can take a time out. A time to honestly be alone with God. Not a time in which we plan our table decorations for Christmas Eve or what to give a lost uncle as a gift. I mean a time to face the true reality of life. Put the kettle on, brew some tea, light a candle and find your way to a chair in which you can pray. Sit in the shadows of darkness in your space, see the flicker of light, sip from the cup that warms you. Here, sort through all you have been through during these past months.
For any of us to rejoice, we must first cultivate our need for Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I need God more than ever in the questions that swirl within me. I find a new depth of need in this ongoing pandemic, when I face my own loneliness of heart, when so many people are distant, when it becomes difficult to speak to friends and to feel their touch. We all must settle into the desire to find Jesus in this Advent season. Rouse desire for hope. Raise awareness of the gifts God gives. Befriend the desire in others who long to be heard, recognized and who most especially long to belong in this world. Be grateful for the life that is yours and not the life you think you should have now. Gratitude leads to much rejoicing.
So how can you settle into the warmth of rejoicing? How does the cold world teach you to rely even more on your relationship with Christ Jesus? Hold up to the Light the longing for your teen to be sober. Hold on to your cousin’s request for healing from cancer. Listen to your little one who struggles to learn online. Find in your heart the beauty of God across the globe, those who need you more than ever. Feel your own life and breath, your own body that is alive in this world.
John says that he is not worthy to untie the sandal strap of the Master. I hope we can come to Jesus with such humility and dependence. Jesus calls us deep into the mystery of Advent waiting to satisfy our human hunger and to heal our human hurts. Advent is a unique opportunity to be at-home in God. For this, I rejoice.
God give you peace.