“Rejoice!” By Rachael Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Third Sunday of Advent

My whole life, I wondered who it would be that I’d marry someday. Okay, fine – ever since I saw the movie “The Princess Bride” when I was 9 – I wondered who I would marry. There was something captivating about that movie: the Princess Buttercup thought her love (Wesley) had been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and finds herself engaged to a selfish Prince who only wants to marry her so he can murder her and blame the neighboring Kingdom as an excuse to start a war. (SPOILER ALERT): Of course, Wesley (who is STILL ALIVE) comes to fight for his beloved, rescues her, and they ride off into the sunset. This stirred something in me, that maybe someday I would be a bride, worth fighting for.

Unfortunately, my “Farm Boy” didn’t just roll up one day to let me boss him around (if you don’t get this reference, you NEED to see this movie!) Years and years that went by with me asking the question “Where is this guy?” I wrote my future husband letters and put them in a taped up shoe box with a slit in the top. I prayed for him – whoever he was. Fast forward to 2014, on this Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent – the week we light the pink candle) my now-husband made an excuse to drive from NJ to my Bronx apartment under the ruse of bringing me new dish sponges since he noticed I needed a new one. The sponges were pink, and I was confused why he had driven the hour out and paid all those tolls to bring me something so insignificant. Then he opened the sponge (as if it were a ring box) and inside was a sparkly diamond ring. He said, “I want to know you, love you, serve you, the best that I can for the rest of my life, including (but certainly not limited to) washing the dishes. Will you marry me?” I said yes; and the best part was – he washed the dishes that evening, and he still does 7 years later (well with a little help from the dishwasher).

The third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday – AKA – JOY SUNDAY. You’ll notice the word “joy” or “rejoice” is repeated 11 times through the readings. Why? Because JESUS is almost here. (Well, almost, in the sense that we’re preparing for his coming at Christmas, but in history of course he has already come!) For centuries, the Jewish people had been waiting for the promised Messiah. Numerous prophets foretold bits and pieces about who he would be and what he would do, that he would be something of a “New Moses” but would come from the line of Kind David, and that he would restore God’s blessing to the entire world and save his people. There were over 300 prophecies about this coming Savior (in striking detail, by the way – down to the fact that he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver) and all of them was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel today, we hear the last prophet to preannounce the Messiah. It is John the Baptist, and he proclaims that “one mightier than I is coming…he will Baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The people listening to John ask the same question over and over: “What should we do?” And that’s a fair question. How do we prepare ourselves to meet the Messiah? John gives some great advice that you and I can focus on this week as well, so that we can be in better spiritual shape to meet Jesus Christ in a deeper way this Christmas. John’s advice is simple and practical. Be generous: share food and clothing with those who are going without. Practice self-control, and choose gratitude over greed. Rather focusing on what you don’t have, be grateful for what you have been blessed with. A perspective that is focused on serving others (as opposed to ourselves) purifies our heart and allows God to shine through us even greater.

So REJOICE! The one you have been waiting for is coming. Emmanuel. God, our “mighty savior” is coming for us, and the readings instruct us to shout for joy! And get ready!

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