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Third Sunday of Advent (C)


"John's baptism, where did it come from?"



The Word This Week


This Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday — “Rejoice Sunday”. This comes from the readings we hear today, and it underlines an important point. In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist telling different groups what to do - they must repent, and change their lives. We might think of this as a rather joyless thing - something which is hard and unrewarding. The message of this Sunday is that repentance and changing our lives to welcome Jesus is something richly joyful. When we are planning to welcome anyone we love to our homes, we set about cleaning and preparing for their visit with enthusiasm - nothing is too much trouble for someone we care for greatly. Even scrubbing the bath or polishing the furniture can be a happy and joyful thing! The message of this Sunday is that preparing to welcome the Lord - even though it may involve hard work - is something utterly joyful, be cause of our love for Him, and His love for us.


Notes for Readers


First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18.

There is a remarkable image in this reading: “The Lord your God... will dance with shouts of joy for you.” Play with this image in your minds for a while, picture it, and see how it makes you feel! How would you set this reading to music? What sort of music would it be? Surely something triumphant and dancing, full of energy and irrepressible enthusiasm! You don’t need music to convey such an understanding of these words: without going over the top, it’s not difficult to “paint the picture”. Just be careful not to get carried away - such a reading still needs to be delivered at a steady pace. Notice that there are two sections to this reading: the first half talks about what has happened - the Lord is in Jerusalem, the sentence is repealed. The second half talks about the future, when God’s work will be completed, and the wonderful news comes to the Holy City.


Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7.

It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest words are full of comfort. The first sentence of this reading is such a phrase: “I want you to be happy...” Perhaps you could spend some time quietly saying these words over and over again, and seeing how they make you feel and think about our God. Paul is speaking very simply and clearly in this reading, which means it pre sent few problems. It should be taken very slowly - making sure that these simple words get lodged deep into people’s minds and hearts. There is also a great tenderness in what Saint Paul is saying. In your mind, put a full stop after “…prayer and thanksgiving”, and treat “That peace of God, which is so much...” as a separate sentence. This reading can offer a moment of peace and beauty to your congregation: read it with sensitivity and care.





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