3rd Sunday in Advent — “Gaudate”
I’ve known a lot of people in my life. Some are famous while others you’d never know. Some are rich, some are poor; some are in positions of power while others are powerless. I’m grateful for the opportunity to know each of them.
But the people I would call friends have one thing in common: they make me smile when they come through the door, when I hear their voice on the phone, or when I remember their faces. They don’t have to do anything; just knowing they are there is enough to bring a smile to my face and a warm jolt to my heart. As a person genetically infected with Germanic seriousness and Irish intensity, I need friends whose presence in my life can make me laugh.
I think that’s what happened when a strangely pregnant girl named Mary went to visit her equally strangely pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. Here’s the way Luke described the moment Mary walked through the door.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry … As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.” (Luke 1:41-45)
Mary didn’t do anything. Just being there was enough to make Elizabeth smile and made the baby in her womb burst into gut-shaking laughter. Mary experienced the same womb-shaking joy and burst into song like a lead in a Broadway musical with the words we call the Magnificat.
In the long tradition of the church, the 3rd Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudate, from the Latin imperative command, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) The pink candle in the Advent wreath doesn’t do anything; just being there is witness of joy among the more serious purple candles; it’s the light of joy that breaks into our darkness.
Isn’t that how real joy is? It doesn’t deny the serious concerns we carry or blot out the darkness we face, but it interrupts the ordinary patterns of our lives like day-brightening friends who make us smile when they come through the door. Joy comes the way Mary showed up at Elizabeth’s house and made her burst into laughter with womb-shaking joy. It doesn’t have to do anything; just being there is enough.
Not to be left out, Elizabeth’s husband experiences the same gut-shaking joy when their baby arrives. After being speechless for nine months, he starts singing, too!
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them …
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68, 78-79)
Keep your eyes open, listen closely, and joy may walk into your life and set you to singing, too!