On the third Sunday our church puts aside the priest’s purple vestments with their penitential flavour; instead priests don rose-coloured chasubles to remind us of the joy that will soon be ours. It is called Gaudete Sunday, from a Latin word meaning “Rejoice!” We are supposed to feel good because Christmas is less than two weeks away.
Well, “Gaudete” does not simply mean “cheer up.” When Paul tells us to “rejoice always, in all circumstances give thanks,” he is not just telling us to lighten up. This is not about mere cheerfulness, looking on the bright side of things. Paul is not speaking about the joy of the light-hearted and carefree, but about a deep-down joy at the core of our being. There have been times when, no matter how many things were going wrong, we have been basically at peace with ourselves and with our lives. We have not lost sight of what we know by faith: that God is a loving parent who cares and watches over us. We are going to be reminded of this at Christmas, when we recall that God sent his only Son, of whom Isaiah foretold, “The Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim a day of vindication by our God” (Is 61:1).
In the readings for the last days of Advent, the church speaks not only of consolation but also of power and majesty. The Lord assures King David that his kingdom will endure forever. The angel tells Mary that her son will inherit David’s throne and that his kingdom will have no end. What is the power that these people are talking about? The impact of Jesus on hearts and minds has never waned. He continues to influence every corner of the world. He inspires fidelity, conviction, courage, generosity, forgiveness and mercy.
Men and women have dedicated their lives to spreading his message and living by his ideals. His divine majesty is expressed in impressive and enduring cathedrals. He is celebrated in art as well; the most beautiful Christmas cards you receive reproduce great paintings that portray the mother and child of Bethlehem. And the soaring notes of Handel’s “Messiah” add to the symphony of celebration.
This is power! This is majesty!