If Advent is my favorite church season, then Gaudete Sunday is my favorite day. There is so much PINK and rejoicing. (Imagine “pink”; I can’t change the font color in the blog!) We continue to wait in stillness, yet our waiting is filled with JOY because, as the readings tell us, “the Lord is near.” We wait with Mary, her cousin Elizabeth, and all pregnant women. My younger nephew and his wife are expecting their second child in June. Although they may be experiencing some anxiety in the waiting, my prayer is that JOY overcome their fears.
I think, too, of other times of waiting in my life where sometimes JOY seemed to take a long time to manifest itself: waiting for my condo to sell; waiting for the start of a program in a new school; waiting for news of a friend’s medical procedure; waiting for results of my own medical tests; waiting in the same year with three neighbors who were nearing the end of their lives.
The first reading for this 3rd Sunday in Advent is from the Book of Zephaniah (3:14-18). Jaime Cortez has set these words to music in his album Adviento (2006). (You can find a YouTube performance of this song by googling the title and composer.)
Rejoice Over Us With Gladness
We shout for joy and sing joyfully
We exult with all our heart
We shall not fear; we will not be discouraged
You are in our midst, O Mighty Savior.
Rejoice over us with gladness
And renew us in your love.
In the second reading, Paul exhorts the Philippians (4:4-7) to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He reminds us, your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. If only our kindness would be known to all! Perhaps the challenge of Advent is to bring more kindness to our world in what we say and how we say it. There is so much mean speech all around us that it can be disheartening. Let us rejoice when we find people who speak and act kindly.
During the Advent Season as we wait for new life, we think about those in our families who came before us. The Jesse Tree is a practice that recalls Jesus’ family tree. Jesse was the father of King David, from whom Jesus was descended. The custom comes from a quote from the prophet Isaiah: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. (11:1) The tree (often, bare branches) is decorated with symbols that represent the events of salvation history and the ancestors of Jesus. For example, a rainbow for Noah, a ladder for Jacob, a burning bush for Moses, or a harp for David. I learned about a Jesse Tree when I was in my first year of teaching, and have made several trees over the years with children and adults alike. There are several websites that can help you to construct a Jesse Tree at home or at your church. My favorite is from Loyola Press, www.loyolapress.com/the-jesse-tree.htm.
This 3rd week of Advent I will be Waiting with Joy.
W – Wait in stillness and joy for twelve more days.
A – Ask God to protect pregnant women in this season of waiting.
I – Invite a neighbor today to share a cup of coffee.
T – Think about who needs my presence more than my presents this year.
I – Include in my prayers those who do not act or speak kindly.
N – Name those who have carried me during times of crisis and thank God for them.
G – Give gifts of clothing for the Giving Trees at church and work
J – Join a neighbor for Advent carols and hymns.
O – On a prayer table, place a rock to remind me of the foundation on which my life rests.
Y – Yes, to all the promptings of the Holy Spirit today.