In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.” From the letter of St. James.
This Third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, because in the old Latin mass, the intro went like this:
“Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete” which translates to:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” This comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:4.
The traditional color of the day is Rose, and we have lit the Rose Candle on our Advent Wreath today. Some churches have Rose colored vestments and hangings, but there are only two days a year for this color, so today it seems a bit extravagant.
Pope Francis, in his sermon on this day in 2014, called this the Sunday of Joy, and that instead of fretting about all we still have not done to prepare for Christmas, we should think of all the good things we have now.
I have spoken of two things now that sometimes seem elusive; Patience and Joy.
First let me say that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is typically influenced by the external. It is fleeting. Sometimes relationships can be built on happiness. You might say to someone, “As long as you make me happy, we are all good. If you don’t make me happy, it’s over.” I have been in relationships like that. Perhaps some of you have been, too.
Joy on the other hand is internal. Joy can last even in the midst of great sadness. Theologian and author Henri Nouwen wrote that joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved, and that nothing, sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death, can take that love away.”
The unconditional love of our heavenly Father brings me great joy. I know that whatever I do, whether I please him, or disappoint him, he loves me completely.
Nouwen continues: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
The most profound moment that I realized this was when my father died. My step-mother and I were at his side as he was taking his last breaths. I was so sad at losing him, but at the same time I was overcome with joy, because at that moment I knew his spirit was going to Paradise.
When I think about that moment I still get sad, and strangely I am filled with joy and hope at the same time. I know that he is reunited with his loved ones that have gone before, and that he rests from his labors in the perpetual light of Jesus Christ.
St John the Divine wrote, “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Holy Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” If that doesn’t bring you joy, nothing will.
The other word that I mentioned before is patience. Mr Webster defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
In our world of instant gratification, patience can be hard to come by. We want what we want, and we want it now! I love Amazon, because I can have have whatever I want in two days. That used to seem really fast, but now in some big cities they have Same Day Delivery. No patience required! Patience is still a virtue, but it must be taught and learned.
St John also wrote:
“Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Another translation says, “Here is the patient endurance of the saints.”
Endurance suggests to me the ability to run a race, or in my case, to walk on the treadmill for an hour! It takes time to build up, but one must be patient.
Enduring the trials of this world while waiting to see Jesus face to face requires patience.
St. James wrote, “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
John the Baptist was a great example of suffering and patience. He chose to suffer by denying himself the comforts of the word, and he chose to be patient for the coming of the Lord.
His whole life was a preparation for one great moment, getting to baptize Jesus, and seeing him anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Whatever suffering we think we have is nothing in comparison. St. John had joy because he knew that the one whom the prophets had spoken was coming into the world. Even at the end he suffered the great indignity of having his head served on a platter, but he didn’t care! He was with Jesus at last and forever! His patient endurance paid off.
We, too, need patient endurance while we wait for the Lord. And we need the joy to carry us through, knowing that the Lord is near. The joy comes when we accept that our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, and that by the Cross of Christ we have been forgiven of all our sins.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.