Today (well, technically yesterday as I'm writing this at nearly 1:00 AM) was the Third Sunday in Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday ("Gaudete" comes from the French word for "rejoice").
So what exactly is Gaudete Sunday? Wikipedia informs us:
Gaudete Sunday () is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Churches, and other mainline Protestant churches. It can fall on any date from 11 December to 17 December.
The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"), the first word of the introit of this day's Mass:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.
This may be translated as:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.— Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1
The incipit for the Gregorian chant introit from which Gaudete Sunday gets its name.
On Gaudete Sunday rose-colored vestments may be worn instead of violet which is otherwise prescribed for every day in the season of Advent. This tradition, previously informally observed in the Anglican Church, was formally noted as an option in the Church of England in the Common Worship liturgical renewal. In churches which have an Advent wreath, the rose colored candle is lit in addition to two of the violet colored candles, which represent the first two Sundays of Advent. Despite the otherwise somber readings of the season of Advent, which has as a secondary theme the need for penitence, the readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord's coming.
So with this Sunday being the Third Week of Advent, we lit our rose candle in addition to our two purple candles as we celebrated Advent tonight after dinner. There is just something so elemental and sacred in gathering around candles to read God's Word and pray together as a family--it's why Advent is one of my favorite times of year.
However, I was more disappointed than I can express to find that the leaders of our evangelical church which we have attended for over nineteen years have discarded the celebration of Advent all together. Having been ill the first two Sundays in Advent, I had missed the services and therefore had not known about the decision to not celebrate Advent as we have for the past dozen years at least, a practice started by our former worship pastor Rollo Casiple.
I am saddened to see Advent discarded in such a way when it so clearly points the way to Christ in anticipating both the celebration of His First Coming as a little child in Bethlehem as well as Our Savior's Second Coming as promised throughout the Scriptures. How can a practice be more "Biblical" than in waiting patiently for Christ's Return?
The readings today in the Book of Common Prayer 2011 centered on the life and ministry of John the Baptist. And the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent is as follows:
LORD Jesus Christ, at your first coming you sent your messenger to prepare your way; Likewise, may your servants and the stewards of your mysteries prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; So that at your second coming to judge the world, we might be found a people acceptable in your sight; Who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.The discarding of Advent by our evangelical church makes me cling all the more to the Anglican traditions that follow the Christian Year as we follow Jesus' footsteps each year in marking times of waiting and times of celebrating, times of sadness and grief and times of great joy. For me, I feel all the closer to Jesus in following the seasons of the Christian Year, and I certainly am presented with far more Scripture in a Sunday Anglican service than I am in a "Bible-believing" evangelical service.
So while I am saddened on this Gaudete Sunday, I rejoice that while churches discard valuable traditions that lead others into the Presence of Our Lord and Savior, His Word is always present to teach our minds and encourage our hearts as we seek to be conformed to the Image of the One who lived, died, rose again, and shall return for us.
Wishing you a blessed Advent,