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Third Sunday of Advent (B)

The Word This Week

So who is coming? This Sunday’'s readings help to answer that question. John the Baptist is asked about the coming of the Messiah - is it him? He affirms his role as “a witness to speak for the light”, by pointing to the one who stands among the crowd unknown to them who is coming after him. This idea is present in the First Reading, where Isaiah proclaims what the “anointed one” (‘Messiah’ in Hebrew) will do, and the joy that this will bring. It is interesting that the Psalm appointed for this Sunday is the Magnificat - Mary'’s song of praise at the announcement that the Messiah would be born of her - in which she sings of the works of the coming Messiah. Paul then reminds us that we are still waiting patiently: “God has called you, and he will not fail you.” This is why, on this ‘'Gaudete'’ Sunday, we as God'’s people rejoice in his care, made visible in his promises, fulfilled in Jesus.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2.10-11.

This famous passage is the one Jesus applies to himself in the synagogue at Nazareth: in it we hear who the Messiah is, and what he brings. This Sunday is called “'Gaudete' Sunday” - “'Rejoice'” - because we are glad to hear about the One who is coming, and we rejoice that he comes. Your tone throughout should be glad and enthusiastic at the good things the Messiah brings, and especially in the second half should conjure up the picture of the glory and beauty of the One who Comes. When a reading is written out in “sense-lines” (as this one is), it is poetry; this demands a style of reading which is more reflective, and more aware of the images presented.  Similarly, when a reading has distinct paragraphs (as here), you should use the pauses that such spacing suggests. So here, the final paragraph (“For as the earth...”) is a new image, and you should pause before announcing it, so that the minds of your listeners have a moment to adjust to a new idea. Whenever there is a analogy ( a”) make sure that each half is clear and distinct. Think in terms of the pictures, and the reading will be easier to read and understand.


Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

Paul is being brief and to the point today. So you can take your time, and announce each of his points clearly. First we have things to do - a list; it is good to pause slightly after each item, to allow people to slot it into their understanding. Then the next sentence is a prayer for the people (“May the God of peace...”) Emphasise the words “perfect and holy”, then pause. Then emphasise “safe and blameless”, but leading on to the central phrase “for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then a slightly longer pause, before the wonderful final sentence: punch out the final words with great confidence: “he will not fail you”. Since this is such a short reading, read it with particular care and emphasis, always remembering that it is a list of ideas and concepts, and so will demand spaces throughout for the congregation to assimilate what is being said to them.