This week we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete in Latin mean “Rejoice.” As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, we also live in expectation of the second coming of Christ. This Sunday our focus includes joy and gladness and taking the time to think of all the good things life has given you.

I need to remember that especially this year. With additional responsibilities that came with being the SEC/UCC Conference Moderator, I haven’t found time for my usual preparation for Christmas. The oft asked question “Are you ready for Christmas, yet?” leaves me feeling a bit down because by now my house is completely decorated and I’ve barely started.

Then this week Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday comes into focus. While I’m not happy about my Advent Season so far, I found myself getting out of my pity party to have some “Christmas Joy”. It began with just reading the lectionary assigned scriptures for this Sunday. I noticed 2 things in all of them. First, they all deal with rejoicing in the Lord – “Christmas Joy”. Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external condition, joy is the “experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, ware or even death can take that love away.” This is a reminder that joy can be present in the midst of sadness. Second, the assigned scriptures speak eloquently to “preparing for great joy.”

So, I invite you to join us at Covenant for worship this Third Sunday of Advent. The theme is “JOY.” Instead of fretting about “all we still haven’t done to prepare for Christmas, let’s instead take some time for, as my sermon is titled, in “Preparing for Joy.” While my sermon will be based on Isaiah 12:2-6 and Luke: 3:7-18; I recommend you take the time to read two alternate readings assigned for this Sunday of joy; Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Philippians 4:4-7.