Third Sunday of Advent.  

(Lectionary readings only)     

While joyous expectation has been a motif in the epistle lesson every week so far, all of this week’s readings include that motif in one way or another. The Latin name of the Sunday, “Gaudete Sunday,” comes from the beginning of the reading from Philippians in this lectionary year — “Rejoice!” This text, and the association of the readings with joy, marks the reason some traditions have marked this Sunday with pink or rose colored paraments, vestments and a candle in the Advent wreath (though that’s a much later tradition) rather than purple or blue.  

Zephaniah 3: 14-20: The prophet leads the singing of a new and almost raucously joyful psalm of thanksgiving. God has delivered the people from exile, will protect them from present and future enemies, and promises to make the name of this people renowned and praised everywhere on earth. That’s something to sing and shout about!

How will you help your congregation experience the “raucous joy” of this reading in worship today? Is reading it enough? Or might you be called to use it as a kind of launching pad for praise? How will you help your congregation “Rejoice and exult with all [their] heart” with this text?

Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6: One joyous song leads into another. This one is often called “The First Song of Isaiah.” 

Philippians 4:4-7:  Paul reminds the congregation that in and through all challenges that may face as a community, from within or without, they can and should rejoice in Christ who is near and offer prayers and thanksgivings without anxiety. As they do these things, they will experience the peace of God sustaining them.

How does joyous praise help you and your congregation “let go and let God” in prayer and in daily life? What happens when you do this? How will you continue to help your congregation to do that in worship today –in praise, in prayers, and around the Lord’s Table?

Luke 3: 7-18: The people grow in joyous expectation because John announces a way out of “viperhood.” They could practice their lives differently. These new practices could help even those with “problematic” careers begin producing good fruit. The baptism they would receive from John would be the effective pledge of God’s forgiveness as they turned away from their former ways of life. In offering such teaching and baptism, John is clear that he’s not the messiah. There is one to come who baptizes with Spirit and unquenchable fire. 

Where have you seen the clarity of coming judgment help people take bold steps to live differently and so rejoice? How will you help your congregation get ready to experience even these hard words as reasons for rejoicing today?

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