The third Sunday of Advent, which this year was on 16th December, is also known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “Rejoice”. It’s intended to be a bit of light relief during the penitential season of Advent. We rejoice as we remember that Advent prepares us for the joy of Christmas. In some churches, to mark Gaudete Sunday, rose-coloured vestments and altar frontals are used. Advent Candle rings that use purple candles, will light a rose one on Gaudete Sunday.
One of the readings set for the Third Sunday of Advent is St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4. 4 – 7:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Purcell’s setting of these words may be running through our ears as we read those words! They are a wonderful exhortation to be joyful, to stop worrying and to trust in God. They are good words to read in this time of uncertainty over Brexit. People will have a whole range of emotions about Brexit and the future of our country and our relationship with other countries, from Europe to further afield. Some will want to rejoice; other will be feeling anxious and depressed.
Facing an unknown or uncharted future is worrying. But God, who rules over history and humanity, calls us to trust and to rejoice. I guess that most of us find that very difficult.
The Examen, instituted by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is a routine that might help us, particularly in uncertain times. We’re invited each evening to recall the events of the day and to look out for signs of God at work; and to give thanks. We also recall the times when God felt absent in our lives and use that experience as an invitation to pray for the coming day.
St Paul’s words from the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians invite us to show gentleness. We need this so much in a time when people have been polarised and ready to criticise, scapegoat and blame.
As we approach Christmas, with all the uncertainties surrounding politics and the economy, may we show gentleness and rejoicing in our lives as we await the celebration of God’s presence among us in his Son, Jesus Christ, who brings light into darkness and redeems us from all that we fear.