Sunday, 16 December 2018 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a unique occasion during the season of Advent, as we can notice from the difference in the liturgical colour used in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that is rose. The rose colour is only used on two occasions throughout the whole liturgical year, one that is during the season of Lent, on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and then one that is today, the third Sunday of Advent, also known as the Gaudete Sunday.

The word Gaudete is the Latin word which means ‘joy’ and the name Gaudete Sunday comes from the beginning of the Introit of today’s Holy Mass, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’ which means ‘Rejoice in the Lord always…’. And this points out to the joyful nature that is present in this season of Advent. During this season of Advent, indeed, our celebrations are a bit muted as we focus more on the preparation of ourselves, our hearts and minds, in expecting the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, we must also not forget that in this season of Advent, we are expecting the fullness of joy that comes with the occasion of Christmas. Christmas is the moment when the fullness of God’s glory and the true joy He is bringing upon us is revealed in its wholeness. It is just like when a mother gives birth to a baby, as at the moment when the baby is successfully delivered, the joy that the mother and the whole family feels is truly overwhelming and impossible to quantify.

Yet, that does not mean the mother and the family was not joyful before the baby was born. For when the baby was still in the mother’s womb, surely the mother has all of the designs and wishes she has on the baby that is to come, all the joy that comes with the expectation of the fullness of joy to come. The whole family also has that suspense and joy knowing that the baby to come is to bring even greater happiness and joy after the baby is born.

We surely have seen and experienced how expectant mothers and the fathers-to-be planned in our families, among our friends and acquaintances, how they all did all they could to prepare for the eventual birth of the baby, their bundle of joy and blessing from God. Although it must have been challenging and difficult at times to prepare everything, especially for those who are first-time fathers and mothers, but somehow, we can see the energy and joy in them, that hidden joy in expectation.

Thus, this is the same joy that we are focusing on today, on the occasion of this Gaudete Sunday. We do not yet celebrate the fullness of joy that comes with Christmas, just as it is inappropriate for us to pre-empt Christmas celebrations by our revelry and partying during this season of Advent, unless circumstances require us to do so. On this Gaudete Sunday, we take some kind of a short break to the penitential and sombre nature of Advent, and focus on the expectant joy of looking forward to the fullness of joy of Christmas.

But now, then, we need to reexamine ourselves and look deep into our own lives and actions. What is joy for us, and specifically, what is the meaning and significance of Christmas joy for us? Have we actually ever given it a thought, or have we instead allowed ourselves to just follow the flow and all the formalities of Christmas, year after year, again and again? That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, unfortunately what many of us have been doing all these while.

The joy of Christmas, according to what many of us have experienced, is the joy of prosperity, of celebrations and parties, of often lavish and elaborate Christmas lunches and dinners, of going to multiple celebrations, of all the decorations we put in place to prepare for the parties that we are going to have, and of all the gifts we are going to exchange and receive from one another. To us, Christmas is joyful because it is a time of merrymaking and enjoying ourselves, looking at all the beautiful decorations and receiving all the satisfactions be it for our stomach, or for our other desires.

And that is what exactly the problem is with how we celebrate Christmas and how we prepare ourselves for Christmas. We have often been swayed too much by the currents of the world, in how the secular Christmas celebration is perceived. It is indeed sad to note that while Christmas is a very popular celebration worldwide, but at the same time, it is also one of the most secularised and commercialised celebration of our faith.

We just need to look all around us, and we can easily see all the usual paraphernalia and items associated with Christmas, from all the lights and decorations, the Christmas trees and the ubiquitous Santa Claus, the Christmas candies and cakes, bells and all other things we are surely very familiar with, every time we celebrate Christmas. Yet, in all these, many of us have forgotten what the true joy of Christmas truly is.

The practices of using lights and Christmas tree originally came from the desire to honour Christ Himself, as He is the Light of the world, Light that comes to vanquish the darkness present in the world, and He is the Lord of life, ever living and He has vanquished death by His resurrection, symbolically represented with the Christmas tree, made from the evergreen pine trees. In many countries where our Christian faith traditionally existed, the time of Christmas coincided with the peak of the winter season.

And Christmas happened just right after the winter solstice, the time of the longest night in the year. The darkness and the cold that winter brings usually cause most of the vegetations and plants to become barren during that time, but not for the evergreen trees used for the Christmas trees. This again symbolises Christ and the Light He is bringing to the darkened world, and the hope and joy of a new life He is bringing with Him, overcoming the darkness of sin and death.

A lot of our Christmas traditions in fact have relations and origins from the desire to honour Christ, and to expect the joyful coming of Christ, but in the twists of time, the meaning and purpose have been overlooked and forgotten. And in the end, what we have is a twisted, materialistic, hedonistic and self-serving celebration that feeds instead on our ego, pride and greed within us.

We are familiar with the figure of Santa Claus, or also known as Father Christmas. We often know him as the figure who comes bearing gifts for children during the Christmas time. But we end up becoming greedy for the gifts and for the many goods we expect to enjoy during this time of celebration. But if we look deeper into the original figure of Santa Claus, he actually came about from St. Nicholas of Myra, a renowned saint, whose love and charity for those who have little or nothing was truly remarkable.

Instead of focusing on what we are to receive, how about if we instead be inspired by what St. Nicholas of Myra had done, in how he gave generously to the poor and those who have little to celebrate? Instead of expecting to receive even more when we already have plenty, how about if we instead share the joy we have with those who have less than us, and even more for those who do not have the joy?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget that there are still many out there who cannot celebrate Christmas in the way that we do. There are those who have to celebrate in hiding or in fear because of persecutions, in places where Christmas cannot be celebrated openly. In those places, each and every day may even be a time of life or death for some of them, and we need to keep them in mind, as we prepare for the joy of Christmas.

Today, let us all rediscover for ourselves what the true joy of Christmas is for us, and realise that behind all of the merrymaking and the happy celebrations we are preparing, we often forget the One Whom we truly ought to be joyful for, and that is Christ, Our Lord, the One born and celebrated in Christmas. Let us all turn ourselves towards Him and put Him once again at the centre of our celebrations this Christmas.

Let us be generous in giving and in sharing our Christmas joy with everyone around us, and be mindful especially for the needy and for all those who have not been able to celebrate the joy of Christmas for various reasons. Let us be the bearers of Christ’s joy and bring the light of hope He has brought into our midst, that each one of us can be the sources of joy for our fellow brethren, for our families and friends, for those who are around us, and for the poor and the needy in our midst. May the upcoming joy of Christmas be the true joy that inspire us all, to be ever more devoted and loving to God, Our loving Father. Amen.

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