Is 35:1-6,10; James 5:7-10; Matt 11: 2-11
“Rejoice with joyful song.” We hear the word “joy” five times in the first reading today, Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice Sunday. What’s there to be joyful about? Last week Deacon Brian spoke of the pressures of modern life, that woman with all those woes. Remember her? No denying this. I remember talking to a man who sounded discouraged. I asked him if he experienced God’s delight in him. He said no. No? No! So, I asked him to pray for this grace. Notice, it’s a dialogue. So, I directed him to ask to feel God’s joy in him, God’s love, to feel hope in his heart, to know that God is near. That is, to know hope in the midst of woe, adversity, setbacks, disappointments. God knows, we all have problems. Everyone.
It is God also who is making the blind see, the mute sing, the lame leap and the feeble firm. Only the Messiah can do this – literally and spiritually. John the Baptist, discouraged himself, stuck in prison, needed a reason to hope. Jesus’ answer lifted his heart. If John the Baptist, so much more you and me. This felt presence of God makes ALL the difference. It overflows to others. Our Giving Tree in the narthex is an expression of all the outreach we do, both locally and for the Diocesan Annual Appeal.
What do you want from God for Christmas? Ask for it. Why not ask to know God’s love for you, ask for an increase of hope. That’s what the rose vestments say. Hope. Light amid darkness, doubt, discouragement, despair – all those D words. Last week we heard that Jesse’s stem shall blossom. Where do you want your life to bloom with God’s blessing? If you feel your soul is a desert, ask God to make it bloom. If you don’t know where you need it, then ask to know what to ask for. Advent is a time of self-examination. Where do you need to feel a burden lifted so the Christmas lights blazing around us reflect the new light of life inside you? That is, where do you need to be made new so you can experience God’s joy in you? That is the meaning of this rejoice Sunday. This is the joy of Christmas, fast approaching.
Christmas is the revelation of God, the manifestation, the epiphany, the showing of God’s Son who is the savior of God’s people, the Messiah. “O, come Divine Messiah. The world in darkness waits your day./ When hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.” We remain waiting. What do you want for Christmas? Ask for yourself. Your gift will overflow to others. That’s what the Eucharist is. That’s what the Eucharist does. That’s why we are greater than John the Baptist. He never experienced the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. We do. Ask to feel it. And rejoice! The Lord is near.