December 19, 2023

MESSAGE – Third Sunday of Advent – Year B – 17 December 2023

MESSAGE – Third Sunday of Advent – Year B – 17 December 2023

THEME:  Moving from Worldly Worries to Spiritual Anticipation

Fulfillment of God’s promises

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, a season of preparation and anticipation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent is also a time to reflect on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love that are central to our Christian faith. Today, we will focus on the theme of joy, which is symbolized by the third candle of the Advent wreath, also known as the rose candle or the Gaudete candle.

What is joy? How do we define it? How do we experience it? How do we share it? These are some of the questions that we may ask ourselves as we seek to understand the meaning of joy in our lives and in our world. Joy is not just a feeling of happiness or pleasure. Joy is not just a result of success or achievement. Joy is not just a state of satisfaction or contentment. Joy is much more than that. Joy is a gift from God, a fruit of the Spirit, a sign of the kingdom, a witness to the gospel, and a call to discipleship.

The common theme among these Bible verses revolves around the concepts of prophecy, divine purpose, and the arrival of a significant figure. Isaiah 61 foretells the mission of a Messiah, while Luke 1:47-55 celebrates the Fulfillment of God’s promises through the birth of Jesus. First Thessalonians 5:12-28 encourages believers to live according to God’s will, and John 1:6-8, 19-28 highlights the testimony of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the coming Messiah, establishing a connection between the Old and New Testaments.

Joy is a gift from God, who is the source of all joy. In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear the words of jubilation and celebration that the prophet Isaiah speaks to his people who are returning from exile in Babylon. Isaiah announces the good news of God, who has anointed him to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to release the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1) Isaiah also declares the year of the Lord’s favour, the day of vengeance of our God, the comfort for all who mourn, and the exchange of a garland for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning, and a mantle of praise for a faint spirit. (Isaiah 61:2-3) Isaiah rejoices in the Lord, who has clothed him with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness, who has made him like a bridegroom who decks himself with a garland and a bride who adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10) Isaiah gives thanks to God, who has caused righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations, who has fulfilled his promises, who has restored his people, and who has shown his glory. (Isaiah 61:11) God gives his people joy by revealing his power, his grace, and his salvation.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, who is the giver of all joy. In the second reading from 1 Thessalonians, we hear the words of instruction and direction that the apostle Paul writes to his fellow Christians who are living in Thessalonica. Paul advises them to respect those who labour among them and have charge of them in the Lord, to esteem them very highly in love, and to be at peace among themselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) Paul also urges them to admonish the idle, to encourage the fainthearted, to help the weak, to be patient with all of them, to see that none of them repays evil for evil, but always to seek to do good to one another and to all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15) Paul tells them to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in all circumstances, to not quench the Spirit, to not despise the words of prophets, to test everything, to hold fast to what is good, and to abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22) Paul prays for them that the God of peace will sanctify them entirely, that their spirit and soul and body will be kept sound and blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the one who calls them is faithful and will do this. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Paul gives them joy by guiding them to love, to faith, and to holiness.

Joy is a sign of the kingdom, which is the reign of all joy. In the gospel reading from John, we hear the words of testimony and witness that John the Baptist speaks to the people of Israel who are wondering about his identity and his mission. John confesses that he is not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet, but that he is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” (John 1:23) John also testifies that he is not worthy to untie the thong of the sandal of the one who is coming after him, who is among them but whom they do not know, who is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:26-27) John points to Jesus, who is the true light, who enlightens everyone, who is coming into the world, who is the Word made flesh, who is the Son of God, who is the Lamb of God, who is the King of kings. John gives them joy by introducing them to the Savior, to the Lord, and to the Christ.

Joy is a witness to the gospel, which is the message of all joy. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be joyful, to be agents of joy, to be instruments of joy in our world. We are called to share the joy that we have received from God, from the Spirit, and from the kingdom with others. We are called to spread the joy that we have experienced in our lives through our words and actions, through our attitudes and behaviors, through our relationships and communities. We are called to show the joy that we have in our hearts by being cheerful and optimistic, by being grateful and generous, by being forgiving and reconciling, by being loving and compassionate. We are called to live the joy that we have in our souls by being faithful and obedient, by being prayerful and thankful, by being hopeful and peaceful, by being holy and godly.

Joy is a call to discipleship, which is the way of all joy. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are challenged to follow him, to imitate him, to learn from him, and to grow in him. We are challenged to follow him who is the way, the truth, and the life. We are challenged to imitate him who is the light, the love, and the grace. We are challenged to learn from him who is the master, the teacher, and the friend. We are challenged to grow in him who is the vine, the bread, and the water. We are challenged to follow him who is the King of joy, who said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

As we continue our journey of Advent, let us also listen to the words of Mary, who sings the Magnificat or the Song of Mary in the reading from Luke. Mary expresses her joy in God, who has chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, who has done great things for her and for his people, who has shown his mercy and his justice, and who has fulfilled his promises to Abraham and his descendants. Mary says:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”.

Let us pray for the gift of joy, let us cultivate the fruit of joy, let us seek the sign of joy, let us share the witness of joy, and let us answer the call of joy. Let us pray that the God of hope will fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) Let us pray that the God of love will grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6) Let us pray that the Lord of joy himself will give us joy at all times in all ways. (2 Thessalonians 3:16) Amen.