3rd Sunday of Advent
December 14, 2014 – Year B
Readings: Is 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
“Gaudete in Domino semper” –“Rejoice in the Lord always.” That is the beginning of the opening antiphon for today’s celebration. The theme for today is Joy, and that is the why we light a rose candle and wear rose vestments. (Judging by the grins on so many of your faces, I think it has been effective.)
One thing that my daughter and I share is that our birthdays are both in December. This can present a special challenge that people with birthdays in other months can not fully appreciate. It can be very difficult to make your birthday special during this very busy time of year. This is even more difficult in our house where both my wife and I work for the Church. A few years ago, my wife was so busy that she had only a few hours the night before my daughter’s birthday to make a cake. She quickly frosted it and put most of the old decorations that we had on top. After it was done, she said, “This is awful. The poor girl is going to be so disappointed.” Well, my wife’s prediction did not come true. The next day when my daughter saw the cake, she said, “Wow! That’s Cool! There’s Barbie and SpongeBob and Harry Potter! Thanks, Mom!”
As I thought about the theme of Joy this past week I realized something. Many of the people that come to mind when I think Joy have many reasons to be less than Joyful. Consider the character Tiny Tim in one of my favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Carol. He’s lame and sickly and his family is poor, but he manages to stay positive. My friend Deacon Dave Dwyer knew that he didn’t have long to live, but he was always smiling. My Granny Ginny grew up poor, but she was rich in love and wisdom.
We all want to be happy. We seek out things that will make us happy, but we often fall short of our goal. Some people are unhappy through no fault of their own. They are suffering from depression and they should seek the help of professionals to help them recover, just like anyone with diabetes or cancer would get help from a doctor. Many of us, however, fail to be happy because we seek it in the wrong places or in the wrong way.
If we want to find true joy, we need to start by looking above us rather than around us. The first step in any of the twelve step programs like AA or NA is to admit you have a problem and that you are powerless to overcome it alone. It is not within our power to make ourselves truly happy and stay that way because Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It comes from God and it can not be earned or created. We need to foster our relationship with God through prayer and by living out the Gospel message.
True Joy comes when we are follow the path that God wants us to follow. When we are close to God, we can more easily discern what this path may be. In his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren offers this advice:
“Don’t settle for just achieving “the good life”… Aim instead for “the better life” – serving God in a way that expresses your heart. Figure out what you love to do – what God gave you a heart to do – and do it for His glory.”
Each of us can make a difference in this life. Whether a teacher, engineer, cook, carpenter, doctor, truck-driver or what ever profession you have chosen, do your job to the best of our ability and with love to those around you. I have noticed that truly Joyful people spend very little time thinking about themselves so they can spend more time thinking about others.
In the Gospel today, the Jewish authorities are concerned about this strange man, John, who is living in the desert and drawing large crowds. He is acting like a priest, like his father before him, but he is not living like one. He is not enjoying any of the comforts that a priest would normally enjoy. He is not taking any of the glory for himself. All he is doing is helping people prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah. We should be doing the same thing today – helping others to prepare for the joy of Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and for his second coming when we will rejoice in the Lord forever.