Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.

Sunday 16th December 2018
Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
Zephaniah 3: 14-18     Philippians 4: 4-7     Luke 3: 10-18


There is an element of spring-cleaning to Advent. Although not quite as penitential as Lent, it is nevertheless a time for taking stock, for preparing a way, for smoothing out the path of our life to let the Lord enter. Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, publicly marks one of the underlying themes of this season: joy! Coming from a Latin word meaning ‘rejoice’, Gaudete is the watermark of today’s liturgy. Joy jumps out from today’s prayers, readings, psalms, and no doubt from our songs and hymns.

Why be joyful? The sole reason is that the Christ, whose advent we await, is coming not to condemn or call us to task, but to set us free. The Jews longed for the coming of the Messiah; we are encouraged to yearn with a joyful expectation for the coming of Jesus. Jesus is coming not to judge but to save: the psalmist to sings with joy: “God is my salvation, I trust – I shall not fear.” Paul shares in this exuberant joy at the nearness of God and he writes to the Philippians with a recipe for happiness. Indeed, he says that happiness is exactly what he wishes for the Christian community.

Among Paul’s ingredients is tolerance: if we know what our own weaknesses are, and if we recognise that God deals lightly with us, then we are much less ready to jump on other people for their own shortcomings. Tolerance comes from knowing the nearness of God to us. And so Paul urges us not to worry: can we change anything at all in our lives just by worrying about it? Is worry a cure for anything? All the while God is at hand.

Yet we do need things in order to live and be happy. So Paul encourages us to pray: by so doing we open ourselves before God and we acknowledge our complete dependence, trusting that God will never leave us wanting. Such prayer causes us to be thankful: we receive so much from God that our natural response is to praise God for sustaining us day in and day out.

This prayerful mood of thanksgiving brings peace – and not simply freedom from argument or from stress, but the deep-down security that lets us know that we are held in the palm of God’s hand. All of which then brings us full circle in Paul’s scheme of things. So the mood of rejoicing and happiness is very much at the heart of Gaudete Sunday. Tolerance, freedom from anxiety, prayer, thanksgiving, happiness and peace are offered to those who turn to God today. And God is very near!




Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2018