Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
The news, today, is about how angst afflicted Canadians are taking up the French uprising across the country,
“Donning the same yellow vests as French protesters, crowds came out in Edmonton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Okanagan, Moncton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Halifax with signs that read “Canada first,” a take on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America first” slogan, as well as “Trudeau the traitor.”
No! On this Third Sunday of Advent – the news is that we rejoice in God our Saviour. This third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. This name is taken from the entrance readings, which is:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed, the Lord is near.
This is a quotation from Philippians 4:4-5, – which we read …and in Latin, the first word of the antiphon is gaudete
Advent is the season of preparing for the arrival of the Lord Jesus (both his first coming and his second coming), and by the third Sunday of Advent, – we are most of the way through the season. So it is appropriate to rejoice as we see the goal of the season approaching:
“The Lord is near.” – Joy, Joy , Joy
There is not much written by the Fathers about the celebration of Advent:
But the colour pink, in the Roman liturgy, came to mark both the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) and the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday). The direct use of pink in the liturgy was to, momentarily, turn the thoughts of the church to the joy of Christmas or of the Lord’s resurrection. The use of colours, icons, decoration, candles, stained glass, architecture and the like – these are cultural expressions – none of which are a basis for “true worship” or are salvific. This morning–all over the world candles are being lit–many are different, most mean very similar things. Today, most Orthodox, generally, have 6 or 7 candles–different colours, but not pink…The celebration there is similar to Lent–40 days of preparation. Some even call it “Small Lent”–makes sense…The Lord is coming–what is my state before him?
See, there is not “only one right way of expression” – we have done that as protesters. No, not with yellow vests, but the result it the same protest as a form of expression. Decided – one is right and another wrong – mostly to justify our own expression of Christianity
That’s a whole different discussion…Even as we considered our Saviour’s description of St Peter’s denial, yesterday-in the Gospel lesson, Today–we come to a pause,-a rest and to delight and to meditate on our Hope and Salvation–in spite of it.
Zephaniah 3:14-20 -The Lord will now be in our midst, showing his kingship by his care for us, so that trouble will no longer be able to come near to us. By him and through him we are also saved, even as we escape from the harm of invisible enemies. You know our enemies are not those we see around us, right? Not people!–our enemy is the one who is after our soul. We have a Mediator who is incarnated in our form, the King of all, that is, the Word of God, the Father. Thanks to him, we do not see evil anymore, we have been delivered from the powers of evil.
One of the Fathers says,
“some commentators understood this [text to apply to] the return from Babylon and the renovation of Jerusalem, and I do not contradict their words: the prophecy applies also to what happened at that time. But you can find a more exact outcome after the incarnation of our Saviour: then it was that he healed the oppressed in heart in the washing of regeneration, then it was that he renewed human nature, loving us so much as to give his life for us.1
Isaiah 12:2-6 – St. Ambrose declares “Hence it was not death’s decay that flowed from his wounds, as is the case with all other men, but it was the fountain of eternal life, as Scripture teaches us:2” as we heard in verse 3 “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” What are the “fountains of salvation” but his wounds …By His stripes we are healed, these marks that forever declare His love and our freedom.
No wonder the enemy would have us despise a crucifix. I’ve even said, “I don’t serve a dead Jesus, my Jesus is not on the cross”. Goodness, what a deception – we should see his wounds and often rejoice in our Victorious Lord and Saviour. His wounds gushed forth, that we might drink of salvation. This echoes Psalm 36 and Song of Solomon 4:12. I encourage you, look these verses up and consider them. There is much application to our own life as the Body of Christ…Our life, crushed, bruised and afflicted–can be to the salvation of those hopeless alive today! There is joy in our suffering …
All sinners of the world will drink to overthrow sin, but each person must be considered individually. This is a terrific and yet, for me, an impossible reality to comprehend…Life is both for each soul and for all. Christ was afflicted with miseries-to make blessed those who were stuck (unable to free ourselves) in misery.
No one will call a man miserable who may be righteous. Jesus Himself said, “No one will make you wretched.” He was bowed down that we might be raised up; He bore sorrow to bring us joy, according to which it is written: “For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?” here in Isaiah and again in 2 Corinthians 2:2. The very one who was made sorrowful by the Lord Jesus Christ, will bring joy to Christ and will be made joyful by Christ.
Again, St Ambrose explains:
We recognize, that satisfaction does not need to be made by us. We are utterly bowed down, that is, not only in offering our faith in Christ – but also our perseverance in suffering. And we should rejoice in our sufferings, as Christ also rejoiced in his sufferings. What he took up for his servants, we should undergo for the Lord.”3
Philippians 4:4-7 – Once is NOT enough! This rejoicing is not alone–it is because of suffering and grief and, being delivered from it. What joy is there, if there is not relief from something. Because we are set free in the incarnation of God, our joy is the fruit of suffering. If we weren’t stuck – there would be no deliverance
God will lift us up–while we, live as humble servants to all men. This should be known to all–so that, as our Saviour prayed, the world would know that the Father sent the Son. And what does lift us up mean?–not for here on earth …Not that we will be exalted or praised–I wish that was what it meant, but no. Lift us up–and, on the last day. God resists the proud–there is blessing not only in doing good, but also–being the inspiration for others to do the same.
Here we are at Advent 3 and, “the Lord is at hand”–wow, really…Our loving Saviour is about to re-enter human time & space. We don’t have to be concerned for ourselves or anything else. Our Lord, the One Who spoke into the darkness, has taken on humanity. Whew–will we ever be able to comprehend it…I doubt it, our humanness can not completely appreciate God. We are ever rejoicing–not ever completing our “spiritual act of worship”.
The Lord is at hand – right here, with us! No matter what, He will work out “all things”. God is with us–how could we not give thanks. St Chrysostom says:
“So one ought to give thanks for everything, even what seems grievous. That is the mark of one who is truly thankful. Grief comes out of the circumstances with their demands. Thanksgiving comes from a soul that has true insight and a strong affection for God.4
The result of God, our Saviour with us – is peace. Ever think about how many times when Christ was with the people. He told them of peace? St Matt 18:20, St John 16:33, 14:27, 20:19, 21 & 26, St Luke 24:36,
God is with us – there will be no more tears … Rev 21:3-7
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Again St Chrysostom says:
“The peace of God,” which he imparted to us, “passes all understanding.” For who could have expected and who could have hoped for such benefits? It transcends every human intellect and all speech. For his enemies, for those who hated him, for the apostates—for all these he did not refuse to give his only begotten Son, so as to make peace with them.… The peace which will preserve us is the one of which Christ says, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”5
Here we come, to this altar, the throne of grace, – heaven on earth:
And the Gospel lesson …
Luke 3:7-18 – healed, washed & rejoicing…The results of all of this, prayer, fasting, faith, peace and joy. Bearing fruits–demonstrating that repentance has happened. What fruits?–you know them … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and – self-control and others in other places… more–these are “virtues” – and only available by the Spirit of God. This is a whole other sermon…that Dn. Fr. Matthew may share with you, of course this is impossible with man–but not with God.
Since the age of 17, I’ve been attempting to walk with our Saviour, mostly failed and failing–every day. Over the years I’ve heard many, many, many sermons–most very well intentioned. Often there is some funny story, some “application” from some famous figure–I’ve done it. You know–quotes from people we know from sports, politics, business, astronaut etc. I’ve come to appreciate the ancient practice of quoting the Apostles, fathers and mothers–who have given their lives for the Church. Dn. Fr. Mathew is doing a masterful job bringing these loved ones front and centre to our lives, as he opens the Word–week after week–Thank you Matthew!
I love what St Augustine says about this portion of St Luke’s account – something like:
“But even repentance will not appear to be of much use to us, if works of mercy do not accompany it. Truth bears witness to this through John, who said to those who came to him, “Bear fruits that befit repentance.” And so those who haven’t produced such fruits – have no reason to suppose that by a barren repentance, they will earn pardon for their sins.6
Goodness – we can sure tell if we are or are not heaven bound, eh. If I don’t care about others…how can I be filled with the love of God? Repentance is to fall upon the Rock, be utterly broken by His love and being resurrected by Him. We would “do” what Father Abraham also “did”–it shows, if we are repentant that is born from above. Not from our “Father the Devil”–makes no difference your birth–our actions betray me …
Every tree that does not “produce good fruits” will be cut down. As we began with the confession…I don’t think it could be more plain, eh? If I am not bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit–what good am I? Jesus said, “in this my father is glorified – that you bring forth much fruit”.
Each walk of life is addressed here: every person MUST give to the one who does not have! End of story. None is exempt–there is no other method of compassion. Not that we have to give everything away…but, we all have capacity to give since God gives it to us. Not an exchange,or a transaction, but rather wilfully, expecting nothing in return.
Lastly–as we prepare for the coming of our King, our Saviour …Shouldn’t the world confuse us with being Christ? Holiness, righteousness, compassion, all the fruits.
When we take the Body & Blood of our Lord. It is not some mind trick or game about some memory or good thought. God, our Saviour, gives us spiritual food – so that we can live spiritual lives – now, here, on earth as He does. We are receiving God, in our bodies no one can do that but God. The God-man, who told us “This is my Body”, He gives us of His own “substance”, one with the Father (creed).
Out from us must flow rivers of living water – not maybe, must…We are His Body…that’s not just a nice thought that makes us have fuzzy feeling. Literally, He is the head, we are His Body. It’s our turn to allow living water to flow from our wounds…as he did. If we don’t act, no one will be set free, just as, if Christ had not left heaven…Out from His wounds, His side – we are that physical material, that the Father will use to prove He sent the Son. If not, now is the time for repentance, this moment, we can call upon the mercy of God
Our battle is against sin and the devil … we must persevere to the end – to be saved…Peace and Joy and Life – come from the Holy Spirit. We can rejoice, no matter the circumstances, because they don’t change my hope or my Saviour. We are almost to the great celebration of the Incarnation, the Nativity of Christ. Let’s hold fast to our confession and be found rejoicing when He appears.
This is not mine, but fits … St Cyrl of Jerusalem (4th Century)
“God grant that all of you, your course of fasting finished, mindful of the teaching, fruitful in good works, standing blameless before the spiritual bridegroom, may obtain the remission of your sins from God”7
Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Rev. Fr. Pat
1 Thomas C. Oden and Alberto Ferreiro Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament XIV (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 218
2 Thomas C. Oden and Steven A. McKinnon Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 113
4 Thomas C. Oden and Mark J. Edwards Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VIII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005),268
6 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr. Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 61
7 Thomas C. Oden and Alberto Ferreiro Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament XIV (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 218
Ghirlandaio, Domenico, 1449-1494. John the Baptist Preaching, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56713 [retrieved December 27, 2018]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domenico_Ghirlandaio_- _Preaching_of_St_John_the_Baptist_(detail)_-_WGA8865.jpg.