Zephaniah 3: 14 – 18A, Phillippians 4: 4 – 7, Gospel Luke 3: 10 – 18
Christmas is a time for gift giving, and the Advent Season is our time to prepare for Christmas. On Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given, Jesus. God gives himself to us out of love for our salvation. What better gift than the gift of eternal life. All we need do is to accept it, unwrap it by the way that we continually make the gift more and more part of our life. This is a gift that should fill us with joy. Actually, more joy than any other gift we ever receive. In our preparation for Christmas the message of this Sunday is Joy.
This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday, which means Joy Sunday. The celebrant is able to wear rose colored vestments today rather than the dark purple of penance. We are called to begin to rejoice because the celebration of Christ’s birth is near. The first three sentences of the reading from the Prophet Zephaniah begin with, “Shout for joy, …..Sing joyfully, …Be glad and exult with all your heart.” These sum up the joy found in the remainder of this reading, the reading we have from Saint Paul to the Phillippians, and the Gospel from Saint Luke.
The first two readings are both interesting when you look at the context in which they call us to rejoice.
In the three short Chapters of the Book of Zephaniah his prophecy goes from a feeling of hopelessness and defeat, to a promise of restoration and joy.
The letter of Saint Paul to the Phillippians is often times referred to as a letter of joy. Paul tells them that in spite of the difficulties they are facing; internal problems of envy and rivalry, along with opponents who are trying to intimidate them so as to turn away from the faith, don’t give up. Paul, writing from prison and his own difficult situation, encourages them to be steadfast and to rejoice.
While the Gospel does not explicitly mention joy, it tells us how to find joy. When the people asked John the Baptist how they should prepare for the Messiah he tells them to let go. Share your food and clothing, don’t collect more than you need. Joy comes from acknowledging all that the Lord has given us and passing that on to others. It is a cause of joy to receive and to give.
As we approach Christmas Day may we do so with renewed attentiveness to what we are about to celebrate. The gift of Jesus is the source of our salvation that should bring much joy to our heart. May we look upon Jesus’ birth as a gift that God freely gives to us out of his love for us, and may we intentionally accept this gift and take time to marvel at its greatness, beauty and truth. It is also important for us to keep in mind that the gift of Jesus is not limited to one day each year, we are blessed with the presence of Jesus in various ways every day. Whether it be in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the source and summit of our life and mission as Catholics, in the least of our brothers or sisters, or in the various people we interact with every day, Jesus is present to us. Rejoice! Jesus is here.” May these last weeks of Advent be a time when we are filled with the joyful expectation of receiving Christ more deeply in our lives.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.