The third Sunday of Advent is named “Gaudete” after the Latin for “Rejoice!” and although we do not see it as clearly when we are not able to gather in person, is nevertheless still marked by the temporary switch in liturgical colour from violet to rose. I love how even within the sombre seasons in the church year, there is always space made for joy and praise. We find this same occurrence within the psalms of lamentation and despair. It is as though the psalmists cannot help but interrupt themselves, bursting into praise for God amidst their cries of suffering, as though the light simply cannot be held back by the darkness for too long.
Gaudete Sunday is like that, I think, especially this year. We are patiently (or not so patiently!) awaiting the coming of Christ, and for us creatures of clay locked in Chronos time, it can be tedious. In this seemingly never-ending pandemic time of waiting: waiting for a vaccine, waiting for “normal life” to return; waiting to be able to see and touch our loved ones again; waiting to return to our beloved church building with all its tangible expressions of worship and community life . . . we could all use a little glimpse of light to brighten the darkness.
It can be difficult to imagine the Kingdom of God amidst our suffering; it may even be tempting to distract ourselves from feeling the pain of staying present. However, Mark’s Gospel tells us to be alert – present, to “keep awake” though we do not know when the promise of the end of suffering will come. It is in being alert to the present moment while simultaneously imagining the time when—as the prophet Isaiah tells us—all tears will be wiped away, that we may indeed see glimpses of the Kingdom of God breaking through the darkness and perhaps in doing so, we may even become agents of hope ourselves.
To rejoice does not necessarily mean we do not acknowledge that there are things to lament. There are certainly many reasons to do so—especially this year. Thankfully however, our joy does not come from external circumstances. The joy and comfort for us is that we do not lament alone: God laments with us and is with us in and through it all. Even—paradoxically—as we continue to await the coming of Emmanuel.
Download the service booklet for Sunday, Dec. 13 here: Liturgy at Home Advent 3 Dec 13 2020