December 16, 2018 — Third Sunday of Advent
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice!”
We have arrived at Gaudete Sunday (Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice”) this Third Week of Advent, and the Scriptures take on a joyful tone as we continue our preparations for the feast of our Savior’s birth and ultimately for His Second Coming.
Our First Reading, from Zephaniah, certainly gives us cause to rejoice. “Fear not… be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” Even more cause for joy, this Savior delights in us — “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, He will sing joyfully because of you.” How can we not be moved by a God who pursues us, who comes to us as Savior, and who actually sings for joy over us!
Our Second Reading gives still more cause for joy as St. Paul reminds us, “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all.” Then he gives us a prescription for maintaining this peace: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s instructions for obtaining peace come as an early Christmas gift. They remind us that we can and should go to God with all our needs and present them to Him along with our thanks. This guidance calls to mind aa vital aspect of a stewardship way of life: gratitude to God in response to His great love and countless gifts to us.
The Gospel passage, from Luke, shows us how to live out this thanks, making our lives a “Christmas gift” to Christ in joyful response to His love for us. When the crowds hear John the Baptist’s message that their Savior is coming, they ask him what they should do to prepare. He responds, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do the same.” He tells tax collectors to stop collecting more than is prescribed and soldiers, to be satisfied with their wages. In other words, he tells them to be good and generous stewards of all God’s gifts to them!
As the great feast of Christmas draws near, let us rejoice in Christ’s extravagant love. Let’s avail ourselves of the peace He longs to give us. And let’s look carefully at our lives to make sure we are indeed making of them a gift fitting for Him. When we get this “gift” right, all the other gifts and to-do’s on our Christmas list will fall into their proper place.