This is the third Sunday of Advent and it is called Gaudete Sunday. The theme is one of joy and rejoicing. The Scripture readings are from Zeph. 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Phil. 4:4-7 and Luke 3:7-18. The penitential aspect of Advent is lightened but not erased (see the Luke reading). As I did my readings I was moved by the emotion of the Zepheniah passage. Here we read that not only will the people rejoice but God will "rejoice over you with singing." The other passages are brimming with joy and excitement. As we come to the Luke passage, however, the theme of repentance returns. John warns his hearers to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance." In my own mind I tied the two themes together. As beautiful as the joy is that we have because of our God it [our joy] does not come without us having to face our sin and deal with it. The proper preparation of our heart and the fruit that accompanies our repentance will open the channel for joy to take full expression in our lives.
I leave you today with a prayer from Steven James' book A Heart Exposed.
O Creator of Beating Hearts,
and Healer of Broken Ones,
I've let my passion grow cold
since those days
when I first began my journey
You've become a part of my life
rather than the center of it,
a distraction rather than the direction.
And my prayers have grown stale,
stored so conveniently
in the cupboard of my heart.
So here' what I ask:
give me the eyes of a newborn believer;
introduce yourself to me again.
Amaze me with your presence
and upset the comfortable balance
of my numb and stable life
with your strange brand of
Crack open my courage and my awareness
so that I can finally speak to you
with all of my will and emotions,
with heartfelt needs and honest fumbling,
instead of holding myself back and
offering up such
hollow little prayers. (15)