There are various and sundry ways to keep a holy Advent. Some traditions like to devote each of the four Sundays to different theological themes. The most common approach in Advent is to focus on four words: hope, peace, joy, and love. This past Sunday we celebrated ‘Gaudete Sunday’. Gaudete is a latin command; Rejoice!
As we walk towards Bethlehem and we take a fearless moral inventory, it is guaranteed we will come face to face with our sin, this is overwhelming, maybe even discouraging. It is for this reason that Gaudete Sunday is celebrated. Even in our darkest hours and lowest points, there is a hope that will break into this world bringing peace, wholeness and a reason to rejoice! As we make the pathways straight for the coming lord by removing defects of character that distract us from loving God and loving neighbor, we are called to rejoice, and we obey because we believe that one day all brokenness and distraction will be gone and we will see God clearly. We celebrate Jesus coming to a manger, but we hope in his coming again to restore us! We have a confident hope that the smudges and specks on our glasses will be removed and we will see God as He actually is and we will be seen as we were meant to be. This Gaudete Sunday, remember the one requirement for receiving the good news of Jesus Christ, a humble heart.
Those who would hear the good news of Jesus, according to Isaiah, are the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and prisoners, and those who mourn (Is. 61:1-4). In the Old Testament these people were considered the Anawim (pronounced: ahna-vim). The anawim were those who could not trust in their own strength but had to rely in utter confidence upon God: the lowly, the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the widows and orphans. It’s not that Jesus didn’t preach to the rich, the comfortable, and powerful; they just didn’t need any good news of a messiah. The greatest gift we can have is rigorous honesty about our character defects and failings because when we embrace these we find that the good news of the Jesus Christ comes afresh in our life. Letting go absolutely allows us to make room for Jesus Christ to be birthed in our lives in deep and profound ways. And when we learn that there is something that God can and will do with our brokenness, and that God made this possible by humbling himself, being born of a woman known as the epitome of humility, and being born into the humble environment of an animal’s bed, it’s hard NOT to rejoice.
As CS Lewis wrote in a letter to ‘Mrs Ellis’, that was recently discovered in a copy of a used book, it is a joy that “jumps under one’s ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights. It shocks one awake when the other puts one to sleep. My private table with one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. I think you really quite agree with me.”