Dear friends of St. John’s,
This Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, is often called Rose Sunday, or by the Latin, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means to rejoice. In this season of anticipation and preparation to celebrate the nativity of Christ, this week we pause from the somber, self-reflective aspects of the season. We pause to remember that even in the waiting and in the darkness, we still have reason to rejoice. This is because there is always joy to be discovered, not only in spite of but often precisely in the midst of our grief, disappointments and failures.
On Sunday, we will hear part of Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." Those might seem like strange instructions for us in these days and in these times. Indeed, they were for Paul too, who was more than likely incarcerated in a Roman prison at the time he wrote this letter. These don't initially seem like circumstances in which to rejoice.
For us too, there are so many ways in which our circumstances over the last two years have led to deep disappointment, disorientation, and pain. But this Sunday we are still invited to rejoice. The good news of the gospel of Christ is unchanged by our present circumstances. The fact that each one of us is known, seen, and called by name is unchanged by these present circumstances. The fact that we are each loved beyond measure is unchanged by these present circumstances. And the light that punctures our darkness is still kindled in humble, unlikely places.
Rejoicing doesn't mean ignoring the pain of our circumstances. It means we can still find meaning and hope in the midst of them. This is why naming our pain and acknowledging the darkness can be deeply healing and help to move us away from despair towards hope. This Sunday at 5pm, we have set aside an intentional time to do just that. We're bringing back Blue Christmas, sometimes called the longest night liturgy, where we'll gather by candlelight to reflect and pray, offering to God in the midst of community those things which burden our hearts this season. And as we do, the invitation remains open to joy.
We hope you'll join us this Sunday morning for Gaudete Sunday, and this Sunday evening for Blue Christmas. Wherever you are on your Advent journey this year, I bid you peace and joy.