December 15, 2008

Rejoicing in God

            The Third Sunday of Advent is usually associated with Joy, and we light the pink candle. In the liturgical tradition of the church, it is called Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete, which means “rejoice,” signals the nearness of the coming of Christ. Paul exhorts followers of Jesus to do three things: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18). These practices lead to joy, for they put us in touch with the One who fills our lives with generous presence.

            Yesterday as I settled into my pew at church, I felt gentle hands on my shoulders as a 90 year old man bent down to give me a squeeze.  A widower, he knows the power of caring touch in the company of God’s people. After the service, he asked to speak with me. “I cannot give to Central now,” he explained, “because I do not know how long I will live. I need to make sure I can pay for the nursing home…but I don’t think it will be too long. I will then be able to give to Central.”  He said this with clear-eyed awareness of his ebbing time and with firm conviction that theological education was worth his investment.

            In this gracious visitation, the lectionary reading was embodied before me. Here was one who rejoices always, prays without ceasing, and gives thanks in all circumstance. In the season of waiting—for the coming of Christ, for nearing death—this faithful one was experiencing joy by sharing his plans for the future. He was rejoicing in God, and I shared in his joy. Gaudete, indeed!

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