Advent — Waiting with Joy

Galveston Horn

If Advent is my favorite church season, then Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) is my favorite day. There is so much PINK and rejoicing. 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. I think, too, of 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.

Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent

The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent are taken from Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the LORD GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. (Luke 1:50) Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. (John 1:8)


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice.” How we can be commanded to rejoice? Nothing is more depressing than being told to cheer up. But an experience can be transformed if seen in a new context. Imagine that you are trudging through the rain, tired and hungry. This would usually be a sad experience. But the moment you realize that a mile away there is a pub with a log fire and someone ready to serve you a hearty meal, the experience of dreary lack becomes one of joyful anticipation. Hunger becomes a receptivity to what is to come. You are decentered. You forget your misery and open yourself to what is to be given. Every one of us has in our center a void—for love, for health, and ultimately for God. We hunger for more. But our faith may sometimes transform that experience of harsh lack into expectant happiness. And so: Rejoice! (“Joyful Anticipation” by Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Give Us This Day, December 2019)

When we begin to count our blessings, we become more thankful for what we have and more aware of what others don’t have. Suddenly our ordinary moments are ripe for prayer. In line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, sitting in traffic – all of it is an opportunity for grace to enter in and for our lives to become a prayer . . . What we need to do is recognize the miracles in the mundane, the divine in the everyday, and realize there is always reason to rejoice and give thanks. (“Little Things Mean a Lot” Waiting in Joyful Hope 2017-2018: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas by Mary DeTurris Poust, Liturgical Press, 2017)

Stillness (2009)

The O Antiphons
An antiphon is a chant that precedes and follows a psalm or the Magnificat in the Divine Office. It is also a short prayer included in the Mass, for example, the Entrance Antiphon or the Communion Antiphon. The verse before the Gospel can also be an antiphon, although we tend to call it a Gospel Acclamation. During the week leading up to the Feast of Christmas, the Church prays a series of antiphons that all begin with the letter “O”; hence, O Antiphons. They are prayed as the Gospel Acclamation from December 17 through December 23.

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:

come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!

— Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers

According to Benedictine monk Fr. Columba Stewart (Give Us This Day, December 2017):
The series [of O Antiphons] is a catechism in miniature, opening with creation (O Wisdom) and working toward its fulfillment in Christ. Day by day we sing of the key moments in Israel’s love affair with God: their recognition of the Lord who had chosen them (O Adonai/ Lord, Leader of the House of Israel), the blessing of kingship (O Root of Jesse, O Key of David), and the hope of a new anointed one, a ruler for all peoples, whose glory would rise like the dawn (O Morning Star, O King of the Nations). This would be no earthly king, but God-with-us (O Emmanuel).

Hymns Based on the O Antiphons

In addition to the classic, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, we sing several Advent hymns based on the O Antiphons. Here is an example:

“Emmanuel” (3:44) by Steve Angrisano, 2004, with onscreen lyrics;_ylt=AwrEfjj10sJf8l4AMikPxQt.;_ylu=Y29sb wNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=emmanuel+steve+angrisano&fr=yhs- Lkry-SF01&hspart=Lkry&hsimp=yhs- SF01#id=9&vid=110ffb410fe389f57ace35a9549588d7&action=view

Come, come, Emmanuel! Son of God, appear. Heaven and earth, rejoice! Salvation is drawing near. Salvation is drawing near.

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.

O come, O Wisdom from on high, Who ordered all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem; From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save, And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of humankind; Make all our sad divisions cease, And be for us the King of Peace.

Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel. (twice)

You might also like to listen to these other hymns, based on the O Antiphons:

“Waiting in Silence” by Carey Landry, 2002; “Blessed and Holy” by Bernadette Farrell, 2012; “Christ, Circle Round Us” by Dan Schutte, 1995;
“Let the King of Glory Come” by Michael Joncas, 2008; “Come, Lord! Maranatha” by Ricky Manalo, 2006; and “Maranatha” by G. Westphal, 1981.

Foods Based on the O Antiphons

“Catholic Cuisine” has a series of recipes to celebrate each of the O Antiphons, for example with bagels or donuts! Go to It’s always great fun to visit this site all year round.

My Christmas Tree (2019)

The Christmas Tree

The final Advent practice I would like to mention is the tradition of the Christmas Tree. I am watching altogether too many Hallmark Christmas movies this year! In each one, the characters are buying a real evergreen tree that completely fills the indoor space where it is set up. (Also, it is usually snowing and there’s ice skating involved at some point!) I loved this tradition when I was a child growing up Massachusetts, and for many years I set up a large evergreen tree in my home. Now that I live in Florida, without snow and outdoor ice skating, I set up a small green artificial tree. I have scaled back on tree ornaments, too. The ones that hang on my tree now each hold a special memory – of the persons who gave me the ornaments, of my parents on whose trees the ornaments originally hung, and of places around the world that were memorable experiences. The Book of Blessings (Catholic Church) includes a short blessing that you might consider as you put the finishing touches on your own Christmas tree.

Lord God,
Let your blessing come upon us as we illuminate this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts. May all who delight in this tree come to the knowledge and joy of salvation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Q. In addition to writing cards, baking, and online shopping, will you make time for waiting in stillness?

Q. How will you rejoice this week, and bring that joy to someone else?

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