Rejoice is the underlying theme of the third Sunday of Advent as it is the pivot of this season where the mood shifts from waiting to a joyful anticipation. To take from some of the earlier readings of the week; it is that joy of the lost sheep knowing that the Shepard is coming to free him from the thickets, and it is the Joyful knowledge announced to the flock that they have not been abandoned even though at times they feel alone. In John the Baptists asking if Christ is the one, or should they expect another; it is the Joy of Christ’s Yes! To feel the full power of the Rejoice though, one has to look at the sorrow of a lost sheep abandoned among the thorns and the flock abandoned without its Shepard. The rejoice is the knowledge that God has not abandoned creation, and that God does come to those in trouble. This third Sunday of Advent can highlight a joyful expectation when faced with a feeling of hopeless abandonment. This theme is emphasized by the first verse of a popular hymn that begins to make its appearance on this Sunday:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee o Israel!
To the ancient Jews that exile was the Babylonian exile, though for anyone today exile can be many different things; from financial abandonment, to the exile of an outcast of society, to the battlefield solder and returning veteran, or a person struggling with illness and handicap, or those struggling through relationships, homelessness, drug addiction. The list is great. These or any of the many life struggles, often lead to isolation; and a persons outlook indeed turns to Joy when those people know that someone cares. Perhaps one of the lessons of Christmas is to give someone abandoned in life a reason to rejoice? There is rejoicing in knowing that you are not abandoned, Christmas is that Joy in knowing that God does not abandon us. If God does not abandon us, should we abandon others? In this season of merchants gifts, here is one of Gods gifts to us, specifically Gods concern for us, and perhaps that gift should be passed on to others? Might a command of this third Sunday be to seek out one of the lost sheep of our society?Emmanuel after all means God is with us. God does not abandon us. Rejoice, and give another a reason to do the same.