In some traditions the third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudette Sunday.” It means “rejoicing Sunday,” and is taken from the Latin, gaudere, to rejoice. It is also the Sunday we light the third candle of our Advent wreath which we name “joy.”
Again, the joy we talk about is twofold, at least. We speak of the joy of an expectant mother, Mary. We also speak of the joy of an expectant people, a people deeply hoping for a relationship with a loving Creator. Our joy today is based on the understanding that during these weeks of Advent we are preparing for what already is. Our joy is fulfilled in the Christ-child.
John the Baptist calls people (everyone, Jews and gentiles) to repent. In Greek the word for “repent” is metanoeo (meta = change, and noeo = mind). The change John is calling for is a radical change, a change at the root, a transformation. He was calling on people to change their minds about everything, towards their neighbours, towards themselves and towards God.
To repent is good especially when the forgiveness and mercy of God are promised. Judgment in these circumstances is Good News. John’s invitation to a new, transformed life gives hope for tax collectors, soldiers, and all sinners. Like a mother hen, Jesus gathers everyone into God’s kingdom.
Jesus Christ is alive among us, and this knowledge changes our Christmas preparations from waiting for a coming event to a deep desire for a vision of what is already here. Let all who have eyes, see! Let all who have ears, hear! The One we await is already with us; Let us rejoice and sing!
Emily Dickenson wrote, “Hope for the future is hidden in the present.” Repentance is not about the past but about the future. The past is past and when you feel a need to change, then Advent has begun in you.