The Cause of Our Joy
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” This text from our first reading today reveals for us the cause of the joy we celebrate on this Third Sunday of Advent. The change in color, from the purple of waiting and penitence to the rosy pink of lightheartedness and rejoicing tells us that the time to Christmas is more than half past, and we are very much near the days of celebration, but it is the readings that remind us what the joy of that coming day is really about.
We look forward to the day of Christmas, rejoicing when it draws near, because we need a Savior. We may find ourselves, perhaps this year more than others, in those groups the prophet Isaiah mentions. We are in some ways poor and in need, perhaps brokenhearted, captive in sin, or feeling like prisoners in our homes, wondering if God will still show us His favor. Into such experiences of fear and discouragement, the Lord shouts this message through the prophet: “a year of favor from the Lord, and a day of vindication by our God!”
The heart of Advent and Christmas joy is that in the Christ child, God declares to us His favor, and brings an end to our spiritual poverty, healing to our sorrows, freedom from our sins, and an interior freedom that nothing can take from us. This joy, then, is not naïve or merely optimistic, not an opiate to calm our frayed nerves and keep us contented. The joy that comes from the announcement of the liberty that God brings is a force that confronts our fears and sufferings directly, meeting them with the reality of God’s love and presence. Far from keeping us calm and sedate, this joy fills us with hope and courage, both of which spur us on to act in love.
Even though Christmas might seem different this year, with our world still living in uncertainty and under new rules, the truth at the heart of everything has not changed. This Sunday calls us to rejoice in the liberating coming of our God, in that He has already conquered sin and sorrow forever, and to help spread knowledge of that victory to every heart. May the rose color we light and wear today help us to build up our hearts in hope, and run well the last few steps to the Christmas feast!