Sunday, 17 December 2017 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we enter into the third Sunday in the season of Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of Christmas. And we may have noticed something peculiar about today’s celebration of the Holy Mass, as we use a different liturgical colour, that is rose instead of purple or violet. That is because today we celebrate what is also known as Gaudete Sunday.

The word Gaudete comes from the first word in today’s Introit proper in Latin, ‘Gaudete’ which means ‘Joy’. In each of the four Sundays of Advent, we reflect on different aspects of our upcoming Christmas celebrations, from Peace, Hope, Joy and Love. And today we focus on the joyful aspect of our Christmas celebrations, and therefore the change in the liturgical colour signifies an allowance for a more vibrant celebration today as compared to the more solemn and penitential nature of the rest of the Advent season.

Yet, the first thing that we must ask ourselves today, is what is the joy of our Christmas celebrations. This may seem to be a silly question and many of us may be wondering why am I asking such a rhetorical and obvious question. However, do we realise that while many of us may know the answer to that question, ‘What is the joy of our Christmas celebrations?’, yet in our actions we are not doing what we think we know.

What am I talking about? I am talking about how many Christians know that Christmas is the joyous celebration remembering the historic and momentous event when Our Lord and God Himself, Who chose willingly to assume our humanity in Jesus Christ, His Son, was born into the world and God has entered into our midst, fulfilling His long promised salvation for us all who are faithful to Him. And yet, many of us do not celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we know just how aggressive the marketing campaign for Christmas can be. Almost everywhere in the world where Christmas is celebrated, there are plenty of festivities and celebrations, and increasingly, year after year, the celebrations become ever more elaborate, materialistic and the saddest of all, secularised.

What I mean is that, more and more people dissociate Christmas from the very One person after Whom Christmas was named, and the very One Whose birth is commemorated at Christmas, that is Christ, Our Lord Jesus Christ. While there are still places where the Lord Jesus features prominently in the Christmas celebrations, how much less popular He is in many other places compared to other familiar Christmas figures we know of!

For example, we can be sure that in almost all Christmas celebrations we always have a Christmas tree, wonderfully decorated with lights and presents underneath the tree. Yet, how many of us know the reason why we make Christmas trees and decorate them as such to celebrate this momentous event?

The Christmas tree in fact represents Christ, as the evergreen tree used for the tree represents the life that Christ gives to the world. At most of the places where Christmas is celebrated, it occurs during the time of winter, when everything is covered with snow and temperature is so low that nothing can live except the evergreen trees that can withstand the harsh conditions. It is symbolic of Christ giving life into the world by His coming through Christmas.

How about the lights and all the decorations that are placed on the Christmas trees? How about the gifts we place under the tree and the star that usually crowns the top of the Christmas tree? They also represent Christ, Who is the light of the world. As the prophet Isaiah said in the reading used for the Christmas Midnight Mass, ‘a people who lived in darkness have seen a great light’, and this Light is Christ.

The gifts represent the gift of Christ, as we should remember in the Gospel of St. John chapter 3 verse 16, the famous phrase, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave us His Beloved Son, that through Him all may be saved’. This is the ultimate gift that God has given us, the gift of love, and not just any kind of love, but ‘ultimate love’, for Christ Himself said, ‘there is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for a friend’ and He laid down His life for us.

And the star atop the Christmas tree represent the Star of Bethlehem, which the three Magi saw, and they travelled a great distance from their homeland to come to the Saviour and King that the Star’s presence announced to the world. This Star is a symbol of faith and hope, and faith because the Magi had faith in God and they used the Star as a guiding light and their destination, and hope amidst the darkness of the land. As from the ancient times until today, the light of stars, sun and moon have guided us mankind in our journey, and therefore, Christ is our Light, our Hope and our Destination.

Therefore, as you can see, pretty much everything about the Christmas tree itself is about Christ! And yet, many of us may not have realised this fact, or that we are focusing on the wrong things. Many of us want to please our guests and family members who come to our houses for the Christmas celebrations, and many shopping malls and cities, companies and others try to outdo each other in raising up the best, the best decorated, the most beautiful and even largest Christmas trees. Yet, if we think about it carefully, are they, and indeed we, missing the point and the true spirit of Christmas?

And we always see Santa Claus and his chariot, driven by the reindeers around. We all know the story of how Santa Claus supposedly lives in the North Pole and has many elves who run a gift factory preparing many gifts for children around the world. And we know how Santa goes around in his magical chariot on Christmas Eve, and goes down the chimney to put the gifts secretly in the middle of the night, and magically the gifts appear in the morning to happy children?

All of them are fairy tales and fables crafted to entertain children and to entertain worldly fantasies. Unfortunately, not many people know the true origin of Santa Claus. Many of them associate Santa Claus with an elderly man dressed in red and white, with long moustache and beards, bearing a large sack filled with gifts. But the real Santa Claus is a saint, and one who was famous for his love for children, and the tradition that he gave gifts to children most likely have ended up being twisted eventually into the modern Santa Claus we know.

But the real Santa Claus is St. Nicholas of Myra, whose feast day we just celebrated earlier this month, a loving and kind servant of God, and yet one who was also zealous and filled with genuine devotion to God, and as tradition has it, he did not even hesitate to punch a heretic in the face, when Arius the heretic espoused and spoke heresies assembled at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, after our long discourse today about Christmas and all of its paraphernalia, and all the true reasons and purposes for all the Christmas traditions we see around us, are we convinced that our true joy of Christmas should indeed be Christ? Christmas is joyful because we have nothing less than God Himself, Master and Lord of all the universe, Who has willingly lowered and emptied Himself to take up our human existence, united to His divinity in Jesus Christ, equally God and equally Man, that through Him, and His ultimate loving sacrifice on the cross, we may have life in us?

Let us all tarry no longer and be distracted no longer by all the materialistic and secular celebrations of Christmas, but instead let us all seek to rediscover this true joy of our Christmas celebrations, that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us restore Him to His rightful place in all of our celebrations, that is at the very centre and focus of all of our Christmas joy and happiness.

And as the Lord Himself has shown us, the examples of His love, then each and every one of us as Christians must also be empowered in the Christmas spirit of giving. Rather than giving expensive gifts to one another and expect a return from those who can give us back what we have given them, how about we give to those who have no joy with them this Christmas because they are not even able to make ends meet? Let us be generous with our charity and giving this Christmas.

As we continue to approach the time of Christmas, let us strive to be ever more understanding of the true meaning and joy of Christmas, that despite all the distractions of this world, we will not forget the true focus of all of our celebrations on this momentous occasion. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord, and may we all find our true joy of Christmas. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

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