The Third Sunday of Advent marks a real transition Sunday. On this Sunday, the Advent season slides fully into joy as the Church worships not only the Lord who will come at the Second Coming, but also “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand” — the Christ who is coming with Christmas. (There are some wonderful YouTube videos on this blog of the hymns we will be singing. Subscribers to my blog will only be able to see them if you click on the title of the blog — Hymns and Lessons for Advent 3. If you click on the title, you will be taken directly to the Holy Trinity website where you can view the videos.)
This Sunday has an ancient name: Gaudete — which means “Rejoice.” The name comes from the ancient Introit for this Sunday. That introit is taken from Philippians 4:4-5 — “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always.)
I really like Gaudete Sunday — and I am definitely not alone in this. There is a wonderful Latin Christmas Carol about this Sunday which might have come from the late middle ages — no one is too sure. If you Google it (Gaudete) you will find YouTube versions by about 15 different groups singing this hymn. The version I like the best and think sounds most authentic is the 2004 version by Steeleye Span, an electric folk group who had a hit with this medieval carol in 1973. Here it is: I hope you enjoy it. (Those of you who are subscribers to my blog will have to click on the title of this blog to see & hear the YouTube videos.)
The refrain is: Gaudete, Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria virgine, gaudete! (Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born (out) of the Virgin Mary – Rejoice!)
Verse 1: Tempus adest gratiae hoc quod optabamus, Carmina laetitiae devote reddamus. (The time of grace has come — what we have wished for; songs of joy let us give back faithfully.)
Verse 2: Deus homo factus est natura mirante, Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante. (God has become man to the wonderment of nature; The world has been renewed by the reigning Christ.)
Verse 3: Ergo nostra contio psallat iam in lustro; Benedicat Domino: salus Regi nostro. (Therefore let our gathering now sing in brightness; Let it give praise to the Lord: Greeting to our King.)
I love Gaudete Sunday!
You will notice that this Sunday we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, because Advent “lightens up” on this third week. In fact, the pastors wear rose-colored vestments (chasuble and stoles) … and some people call this Sunday “Rose Sunday” for the same reason: Advent completely lightens up this week and the Church slides into the rejoicing of Christmas. And this “focus on rejoicing” is happening in our lives and our homes as well — the decorating is done by now and can be enjoyed, most of the shopping is completed, and now the house is beginning to fill with the tantalizing scents of baking. It’s not full-bore, no-holds-barred, Christmas-rejoicing yet, but all the end-of-the-world, Christ’s-return-and-judgment-day readings are over for now. By the Third Sunday of Advent, most of the “heavy lifting” is finished for the family’s Christmas preparations. We still have lots of preparing to do, but it’s mostly the fun stuff — the carolling, the parties, the concerts, the family nights around the DVD player. The fun stuff!
The texts for this Sunday are Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146, James 5:7-11, and Matthew 11:2-15. The wonderful Old Testament lesson from the prophecy of Isaiah describes the Messiah’s coming and the blessings that will result from it: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. … A highway shall be there and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness .. No lion shall be there nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
The New Testament lesson calls us to be patient and “steady our hearts” because the coming of the Lord is at hand and the Judge is standing at the door: our waiting is nearly over. Meanwhile, in the Gospel when John sends two of his disciples to ask if Jesus is the long awaited Messiah or should they look for another, Jesus tells them to go back to John and tell him what they see happening: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” In other words, the Messiah has come. It is a time of rejoicing!
All through Advent, we have been filled with hope and expectation as we have prepared for both the Christmas feast and the Second Coming of Christ. Beginning with Gaudete Sunday, Advent slides into that joy and gladness in our Redemption that began with Christmas and will be fulfilled when Christ returns — a joy and gladness that always has a home in the hearts of the faithful.
Our Processional Hymn for this Sunday is “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding.”
The Hymn of the Day is “On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry.”</em
The Distribution Hymn for Gaudete Sunday is pure Christmas … almost. “Creator of the Stars of Night.”
The Recessional Hymn is the wonderful “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns”.” And here again in this glorious hymn, all the Advent themes are woven together into a song of Joy fit for Gaudete Sunday.
I really love Gaudete Sunday — and I hope to see you at worship this week.