The Third Sunday of Advent is known traditionally as Gaudete (Latin for “Rejoice,” or “Be Joyful”) Sunday, from the Latin translation of the second reading from Philippians[4.4], sung as an antiphon too on this day,“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” As an accompanying sign of a lightening of the rigour of the season, the colour of the vestments is rose.
In a world of growing political tension and uncertainty, of cataclysmic predictions about the future of our environment, of an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, of the increasing oppression of minorities, one might well ask what it means, whether even it is possible, to be joyful.
Two things, it seems to me, are important to bear in mind here. First, while often we hear only of the challenges and the bad news, there are good news stories to celebrate, to gladden the heart: the work of countless volunteers and charitable organisations, new insights and encouragements from a chance encounter, the support of family, friends and relatives. Secondly, to rejoice,to be joyful always, is not to be on a constant emotional high, oblivious to the circumstances in which we find ourselves and our world. Rather, St Paul,writing from his own experience of hardships, trials and tribulations, is urging the Philippians, and by extension us today, to have a quiet trust and confidence that whatever is happening to and around us, the Lord of creation,of life and death, will hold us and God’s world in God’s love, here and hereafter, as God held his Son in and through death into the resurrection life.In this is the peace of God which passes understanding, in this is our joy and our Advent hope.
Alongside these words from Philippians we may also draw strength from what Paul writes in Romans [8.38,39]: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
May this confidence, this joy, invigorate us as we live out our faith in love and service.