Sunday, December 17, 2023

Advent III -- Gaudete!


From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent:

O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
In our Advent journey, today marks the point where we make the far turn and point our bowsprits toward home, and Christmas morning.  And like with any journey, the return home is always a joyous development which is why the theme of this Sunday is joy.  This joyous theme is reflected through our appointed readings.

The Prophet Isaiah, prophesizing more than half a millennia before Christ's birth, captured this joy:
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  Isa 65:18-20 ESV
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Church at Thessalonia points to this Joy but Saint John the Evangelist captures it best as he captures the dawn of the ministry of Jesus to the people he came to redeem:
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."  Jhn 3:28-30 ESV
The Evangelist who was Baptized with the Holy Spirit in utero, was fully cognizant of his mission and ministry. Had he given into the temptation, he could have risen to a superstar status in the region as he lived out his life in the same comfort known by the religious aristocracy of the high priestly class.  He dismissed any of these notions, remaining focused on his call to be a voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.  He recognized Jesus, Jeshua, for who he was.  As The Christ's ministry waxed, he knew that his ministry would now wane.  Yet this would not be an occasion for sorrow, it was a time for joy as he recognized that the bridegroom had now come for his bride. 

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