בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Bārūch atāh Adonai Elohênū melekh ha`ôlām šeheḥeyānû veqîmānû vehigî`ānû lazman hazeh

Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us life and sustained us and brought us to this season

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Third Advent: Joy


Two purple candles and the pink candle lit
Luke’s account of the Savior’s birth, complete with the angel’s annunciation of “good tidings of great joy,” provides one of the most joyful scenes in scripture.  Traditionally the third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin injunction “Rejoice!” Frequently read on this Sunday is the verse, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  While the entire season leading up to a Christmas is a joyful period today, historically Advent was largely a solemn season of preparation, but Gaudete Sunday was a welcome reminder that the Christmas message was, in fact, one of happiness and rejoicing.

As a result, the third candle in many Advent wreaths is often pink or rose-colored, setting it off from the other three purple candles.  However, I find another useful image in the pink candle, choosing to see it as representing the blood of Christ that he would shed in his Passion, reminding us in the midst of Christmas preparations that Jesus came into the world foremost as a sacrifice. Nevertheless, the sorrow of Christ’s suffering and death is blotted out as we triumph in his resurrection, and we anticipate the return of Jesus in his Second Coming with joy (Good Tidings of Great Joy, 94).

The Promised Advent 
  • “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.  Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth” (Isaiah 12:2–5, emphasis added) 
  • “And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.  For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.  For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay . . . And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” (Mosiah 3:3–8, emphases added)
   
On the Eve of His Coming: The Visitation and the Magnificat 

The hill country of Judah at `En Kerem
Early in her pregnancy, Mary traveled to the hill country of Judea, where her relative Elisabeth lived. Upon her arrival, both Elisabeth and her yet-unborn son John received witnesses from the Holy Ghost that Mary's child was the promised Savior, a testimony that filled them with joy.  In turn Mary responded with an inspired, poetic song of praise, known traditionally as the Magnificat.

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The Church of the Visitation at `En Kerem
And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:39–56)

Click here to see Elaine and Rachel read the words of Elisabeth and Mary at the Church of the Visitation at `En Kerem, the traditional home of Zacharias and Elisabeth in the hill country of Judah

See "Mary and Elisabeth Rejoice Together," The Life of Christ Bible Videos.








The Joy that Christ Brings
  • "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:20–22, emphasis added) 
  • "And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one." (3 Nephi 28:10, emphasis added)

Looking Forward to Christ's Second Advent
  • "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:  Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls . . . But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (1 Peter 1:6–9, 4:13, emphases added)

The traditional Anglican collect for Third Advent from the Book of Common Prayer reads: 
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

Music for Advent (see Good Tidings of Great Joy, 93–94) 

The best known carol that sings of joy is, of course, “Joy to the World.” The text is a Christian paraphrase of Psalm 98 by Isaac Watts (1674–1748), and it was firmly associated with the hymn tune “Antioch” by Lowell Mason (1792–1872) in 1836. Popular with many Christian groups, different churches have adjusted the lyrics slightly to accord with their own beliefs or sensitivities. Latter-day Saints are no different, following the lead of W. W. Phelps and changing “and heaven and nature sing” in the last three lines of the first verse to “and saints and angels sing.” Because it is both familiar and fun to sing, our family always sings this carol at the end of our third Advent celebration.


While “Joy to the World” may be a natural and easy Christmas carol to sing in connection with this Advent theme, I am personally attracted to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” even though it is not strictly a Christmas song.  From Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, the English rendition most commonly sung certainly catches the joy and mystery found in the Incarnation of the Son of God as Jesus Christ:
Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.




Because I like to link the pink of the third candle to both the Advent theme of joy and the anticipation of Jesus’ saving blood, I also like to at least read through or think about the words of the carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” This traditional English carol was set to a French melody by Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) in 1861.  Employing pre-Christian symbols, it nonetheless powerfully anticipates the Passion of Christ:

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Oh, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Savior.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
for to redeem us all. 



 


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