Advent today takes a turn into Joy as we anticipate the coming of Christ in a few short weeks. This turn into Joy we mark on the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (gow-DET-eh) Sunday. This unique title comes from the Latin word “rejoice” which is the first word of the introit sung traditionally on this day at the start of mass, as we light the pink candle on our advent wreaths. We rejoice as the dawning of our salvation comes near, turning our minds from the desolation of the world into the promised hope that is about to crest over the horizon. But what does that mean for us today?
At its core, Advent provides us a moment to stop, listen, and see the world differently because of the preparation we are called to inhabit in our lives by delaying the experience of temporary joy we know as consumer Christmas in wider society, as we seek to inhabit the permanent joy of God's kingdom. But what are we preparing for? The surface answer is the coming of Christ of course, but the deeper answer is actually rooted in joy- a joy at what God is doing in a permanent way, which is what Zephaniah is speaking too. Zephaniah is written to a post exilic community that was wondering what if anything is going to come next in a world that feels forign and unsure. Ruler after ruler has come and failed to live up to the promises of the people, and it feels like the world is actually trying to tear itself apart. This sounds rather familiar to our world sometimes, doesn't it friends? Rather than building to a crescendo of anguish, despair, and war, as chapter 2 suggests, Zephaniah in chapter 3 releases us into an overture of hope and joy. Hope and joy which are the product of God alone, rather than a sudden overcoming of the darkness through human strength, because of God's intervention into the world. An intervention whose heart is about community. It is this longing for hope and joy in community that we anticipate and celebrate.
The first weeks of Advent provide a space for us to sit and listen to the new things that God is doing in our lives, so that the joy we feel at Christmas sees the realization of our deeply held hope for permanent change to our world. Change, I think, which is found in community. In community we find consolation in the face of challenge, love in the midst of grief, and purpose through the joy our lives are built to live in the world. This Advent and Christmas, I invite you again into this community of God's greatest joy we call St. Anselm’s. To wonder again at the newness of life God is making all around us, as we serve our friends on the streets and neighbourhoods of this parish together. The message of Christmas yet to come is about finding home, a home which for us is at the edge of the manger in the face of Christ. The Christ in whose joy we serve, in whose love we live, and in whose anticipation we wait.
As you rejoice at this homecoming in Christ again this Christmas, I invite you to share this joyful invitation with your friends and family to join us for our Christmas services. In this time of community, family, and Joy, I invite you to make a financial gift towards our ministry at Christmas, a ministry which is grounded in building relationships all over the UEL and UBC neighbourhoods. Gifts can be made on Sunday using the pew envelopes, or online using our online offering plate.
May the Joy of this season be a beacon of hope for our world and in your life everyday,
these lands upon which we worship as the ancestral, cultural, traditional and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people from time immemorial.