The third Sunday of Advent offers the deep pink candle, reminding us that a rose bloomed in winter, the highly favored Virgin Mary. This liturgical color also tells us that Advent is more than a penitential season; it is a time of rejoicing. Gaudete Sunday, so named because of the theme of rejoicing in the lectionary texts, calls us to joyous anticipation of the coming of the Christ. The words of Mary say it best: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. . .” (Luke 1:47).
Scripture does not instruct us to rejoice after good things have occurred; rather, in faith we cultivating rejoicing as a spiritual practice that bears witness to a deep trust in the goodness of God. Isaiah 61 is awash in the language of jubilee, that time when God’s justice transforms the brokenhearted and mourning is displaced by joy. The prophet offers his word prior to enactment of “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:2), believing that restoration will come and, thus, God’s people will rejoice. As they labor toward the goal of establishing righteousness, the work itself participates in displaying the glory of God, and allows the gift of everlasting joy (61:7) to be theirs.
Yesterday I visited with a loving couple who live smack dab in the middle of the Ozarks in southern Missouri. They live simply on 187 acres of pasture, covered with small lakes and groves of walnut trees, which make it more interesting for the turkeys, coyotes, deer, and possums who share the land with the small herd of Angus cattle. Generous in their gifts to Central, they can think of no better investment than making it easier for students to prepare for ministry. They remember how many jobs they worked in order for the husband to complete seminary: grocery store clerk, elevator operator, pastoral work, church secretary, and other duties as assigned!
Their joy in participating in the seminary’s mission is palpable. They asked questions about new initiatives in congregational health, work with Myanmar Institute of Theology, our new library and chapel and, especially, Central’s students. They inquired about personnel by name—a good clue that they are devouring any mailing from the seminary. I was amazed by how current their knowledge was.
They spoke about their plans to give most everything away before they die, so that there would not be resources “just hanging over their heads,” as they put it. Delighting in their advocacy for Central, they mentioned other persons that they want to prompt to invest in Central’s mission. There are no sweeter words for a seminary president or institutional advancement vice president to hear!
The Apostle exhorts: “Rejoice always. . . “ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This straightforward command suggests that joy can be a disposition one practices. Rejoicing and thanksgiving are expressions of faithful service. I was privileged to observe it up close yesterday. Gaudete, indeed!
Molly T. Marshall
Continue visiting our website to learn ways to “Gift Central.” I trust it will be an opportunity for you to rejoice in this glad season.