Advent III December 17, 2017
The joy of the Season

Let our hearts be filled with joy on this Rose Sunday as we consider the birth of the Holy Child and our response of joy. AMEN

 

Have you ever thought seriously about joy? What is it, why do we experience it, and what does it have to do with the 3rd Sunday of Advent? These are all good questions and the answer to one of them is joy and the 3rd Sunday of Advent have a lot to do with each other.

 

Joy, a powerful human emotion, is usually found in the top ten emotions we experience as humans. So much has been written about it that I can’t begin to even touch the surface of the research on joy. Well, I could if someone wanted to feed us for a week and we never left our seats and I had access to the main library, the Weidner Library at Harvard. Feeling joy is often a transcendent experience, it takes us out of ourselves, our worries and our cares and places us on another plane altogether where we can experience the pure emotion of joy. Often our spiritual experiences are characterized by joy when we meet our Savior and learn about his love of us.

 

When are some of the times we have experienced joy: how about at our weddings, at the birth of a child, when something we hoped for, longed for, came true or when we baptized our children as we are about to do today. These are great occasions for joy, true, pure, joy.

 

This, the third Sunday in Advent is set aside for joy and it is called GAUDET Gaudete Sunday. “The term is derived from the Latin of the opening words of the introit antiphon ‘Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always’” from Philippians 4:4 in the Roman rite of the third Sunday in Lent

“Gaudete  is also a sacred Christmas carol, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century, but could easily have existed as a monophonic hymn in the late medieval period. The Latin text is a typical medieval song of praise, which follows the standard pattern for the time – a uniform series of four-line stanzas, each preceded by a two-line refrain… Carols could be on any subject, but typically they were about the Virgin Mary, the Saints or Christmastide themes” (Wikipedia).

 

Here is an English translation of the Medieval hymn Gaudete.

 

Rejoice, Rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary,
Rejoice!

It is now the time of grace
That we have desired;
Let us sing songs of joy,
Let us give devotion.

God was made man,
And nature marvels;
The world was renewed
By Christ who is King.

The closed gate of Ezechiel
Has been passed through;
From where the light rises
Salvation is found.

Therefore let our assembly now sing,
Sing the Psalms to purify us;
Let it praise the Lord:
Greetings to our King.

 

There are recordings of this carol which have been made by several groups who specialize in Medieval music and if you want to hear the carol; Google U Tube for Gaudete which is spelled gaudete. It has a distinctive Medieval flavor to it both rhythmically and melodically and it is sung in Latin. I hope I remembered to bring my computer, so I could play it during coffee hour. There are several versions of the medieval carol available.

 

Although this 3rd Sunday takes place during the usually penitential season of Advent, it serves as a mid-point break from the austere practices to rejoice in the nearness of Jesus’ return. We wear pink vestments thus the name Rose Sunday, we light the third candle which is often pink, in the Advent wreath and we often have roses as the flowers on the altar.

 

Our reading from the prophet Isaiah is also joyful. “The spirit of God, the Master, is upon me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, which God expects us to accomplish in the present day as well and it requires us to be where the poor are, to heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners” (6:1, The Message). All these same commands also apply to us today.

 

As we baptize three sweet children of God this morning, may we remember to teach them about God’s expectations of them as His servants. As we baptize them, we also anoint them with sacred oil and proclaim them as Christ’s own forever. We also were anointed with sacred oil as part of our baptism: to do good works, to bring bouquets of roses instead of ashes and to bring the oil of gladness instead of mourning to those who need the loving display of Christ’s love of them.

 

As Christ’s own forever Ava, Casandra, and Giovanni can choose to follow Isaiah’s instructions to announce freedom to all captives. This sacred work has been a mission of one of our own beloved congregants for several years now and I know others have also been involved in the holy work of freeing captives as Isaiah tells us to do.

 

In this Isaiah passage we hear the antiphonal voices of God and Isaiah, not that we hear God’s voice, but we do hear Isaiah reacting to what God has told him. What a treat! We take it in, mull it over and interpret what it means for us and how to respond to this conversation. Isaiah says: “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Isaiah 61:1, The Message).  Most of you here present have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, and our babies to be baptized also will be anointed and the Spirit of the Lord will be upon them. This is very exciting. Are you feeling the joy?

Thessalonians 5 has some suggestions about how to respond to God’s anointing of us and his call of us to His service. Here Paul says: “rejoice always.” That sounds familiar, somebody I know is planning on preaching on that subject. It’s hard to imagine ourselves capable of always rejoicing, especially during this season. Several of us have lost spouses, beloved family members, or good friends in the last year or two making this a hard season to be in because of all the memories and losses we feel. That’s so understandable. Rejoicing in the love of a Savior we can do, and saying “thank you Jesus” for what we do have also helps a lot. Paul also tells us to pray without ceasing. Do you know the Jesus prayer? Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. I have had days where I say that prayer repeatedly. I always feel better.

 

May our Lord bring us into joy this season, with a spirit of rejoicing, at the remembrance of his birth, and the remembrance of our own anointing and may He prepare us and our baptismal children for service in His Kingdom, AMEN.

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents