Third Sunday of Advent
My dear encountered couples:
Indeed, today is Gaudete Sunday – Joy Sunday! Those who are struggling with grief or loss are not joyful. Yet the comfort of the good news touches the wounded. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading reminds that God sent his Son to bring good news; to bind up hearts that are broken. St. Paul goes on to say, “be happy at all times: pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God.”
Hard to motivate yourself to such enthusiasm if you are at a low ebb! Yet it is precisely because of Christmas we can take hope. God is with us in our humanity, despite the suffering and the sadness we encounter each day.
We live in a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Yet God has chosen to live a fragile humanity. In that is our consolation. If ever you wanted proof of fragile humanity take a look at the Q next time you wait at checkout in a department store!
Recently I saw a girl pass a package over the counter, as she did, she glanced sideways at the long line of people waiting, each bearing a strained and impatient I'm tired and in a hurry look. To no one in particular and to everyone in general she sighed “Isn't it terrible what's happened to Christmas!”
We sense of course what she meant. The birth of Christ, the coming into our world of a savior- has nearly been lost beneath the mad rush of buying and wrapping, fighting traffic, standing in line, and beating the deadline at the post office. So much and so many make demands on us. God makes only one. To experience the presence of his Son.
John’s Gospel should arrest us today. Its opening line herald’s history in the making. “A man came, sent by God. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.”
How many long to be led from darkness to light. As a bereaved parent expresses it best “If you have lost your child and are not destroyed by bitterness; if you have seen death, yet believe it is not the end; if you know the pain of loss and have found grace to overcome; if your raging voice has been quieted by that still small voice of calm. Then to speak to me of your faith, however weak, of hope, and a love that overcomes all things. And I shall listen, and God may speak to me. And I may find peace.”
Gaudete Sunday is about finding peace. It is not about false hype or forced smiles. It is to be the experience of a heart felt knowing that God cares for us. It is the promise that a pause in our busyness helps us recognize the Holy One in our midst.
To have the experience I speak of is not to lessen celebration, or to take away the real happiness of giving and receiving presents. It is to look at all these in a new light. Countless shops will beat out lovely carols senseless in the run up to Christmas. TV stations and commercials will bombard us with glitzy images of tinsel decorated snow towns. Our longing for Christmas may all too easily be hijacked by big business.
Hear the words of John the Baptist against this backdrop! “There stands among you-unknown to you – the one ...”
Come to know Jesus. John prepared the way. We are to proclaim the way. The waters not of Jordan but of our Baptism unite us. John was the messenger God sent before his Messiah. You and I are to be messengers after the messiah. Our focus is the Messiah. To look upon the infant of Bethlehem and understand the gift God has given in one child. The true gift of Christmas.
I invite you to listen to this reflection: “John was a voice crying in the wilderness, a lonely voice that many of his contemporaries ignored. The voice of the prophet is not the only voice ignored”.
There are many lonely voices in our world that go unheeded. Somewhere at this moment a child is crying - crying for love or maybe simply for bread. Somewhere a young person is crying - crying for a listening ear or an understanding heart. Somewhere a deserted wife and mother is crying - crying for support and understanding. Somewhere old people are crying - crying for a word from their children. There are a thousand lonely voices, a thousand unheard cries in our world, coming from the victims of injustice and neglect.
Lord, help us to listen to these voices. Above all, help us to listen to your voice whispering to us in the wilderness of our hearts. Telling us we are loved by the Father, and that we are to love one another.