December 16, 2018
(3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday)
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! . . .
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, . . .
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! Zep_3:14-18a
God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel! Is_12:2-3,4,5-6
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. . . . The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, Phil_4:4-7
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” . . .
Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. Lk_3:10-18
The overarching theme of all of today’s Scriptures – is 3-fold, and St. Luke sums it up nicely with the words of John the Baptist, as: “the Good News.” So what is this “Good News?” Well, if you were to ask my fifth-graders, they would immediately answer, that: “The Good News is that – God loves us, no matter what!”
And if we had never heard those six – simple words before: “God loves us, no matter what!” our natural response might be: “Yeah, but what about . . . ? What about suffering and death, what about sin and punishment? Or we might be thinking: “If that’s the case, then why do so many bad things just keep on happening?” . . .
And right there, you see, if that’s our response, right there, we are putting God in our own, restricted, little, human box. And if our God is restricted to OUR primal way of thinking, if our God is restricted to OUR self-directed way of acting, then, He really is NO God at all. He’s just another idol that we can put on the shelf when we walk out of Church, or when we go to the movies, or when we get lost somewhere in the world of our little “pocket gods.” (smart-phones)
You see, brothers and sisters, God is MORE than anything we can possibly imagine. More loving, more forgiving, more understanding, more powerful, more peaceful more present, more totally immersed in us than we can ever possibly be in Him, or in one another.
And the Good News – is that
THIS God loves us, NO MATTER WHAT!
Now, drawing from that most basic understanding of our God, let’s explore this 3-fold Theme of today’s Scriptures.
Of course, we all know that today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is called Gaudete, which means Rejoice! So our First Theme is JOY!
We see it in Zephaniah’s prophesy to the Judeans, just a few years before their Babylonian exile: “Shout for Joy, O daughter Zion.”
We see it in Isaiah’s exultation from our Psalm: “Cry out with Joy and gladness…”
And we see it in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
But what is IT
that we have, to Rejoice about?
Again, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Paul and John the Baptist tell us in our Second Theme. Our reason for Rejoicing is because “the Lord our God, is IN our midst!”
You see, He’s not just the God of Sunday mornings. And He’s not just the God of help when we’re sick or struggling. Our God loves us, NO Matter What, AT all Times, and FOR all Time. Our Lord DWELLS among us!
And in that Mutual Love of God for us, and We for Him, our Third Theme, is the elimination of all FEAR.
You see, even though the Judeans were witnessing the fall of Israel, their northern neighbors, to the sword of the Assyrians, Isaiah was telling them and us that despite the threats and despite the challenges, we are to be Confident and Unafraid,
when the Lord is in our midst.
And even though, 100-years later, when the Judeans, themselves, were about to be decimated by Babylon, Zephaniah tells them – NOT to FEAR.
And, even though the Philippians faced persecution because of their Faith in Jesus, Paul tells them to have NO Anxiety, because the Lord was with them.
You know, sometimes Life might make us feel as if we were being chased by an army of cannibals, with just seconds to cross an aged rope bridge, over a 1000-foot gorge, with an arrow in one leg, and alligators snapping below us.
And yet, even with a history of acrophobia, we would still have NO Fear, because we would know that the Lord our God, is always with us! We would know that “All things are possible with God.”
You see, we really do have NO reason for Fear, because our Lord, Jesus Christ, has already Saved us. And THERE – is our reason to Rejoice! There, is our Good News, that God Loves us, no matter what!
For there, in that little cave where the beasts would dwell, the Lord, our precious God, would come into our beastly nature, out of His unfathomable Love for us.
And from that little trough that was used to feed the beasts, the Lord, our incarnate God, would feed us with His Word, and His Sacrament, and His very blood, out of His immeasurable Love for us.
And IF we can wrap our simple, little, human minds – even part-way around the immensity of that Act, the immensity of the Love, that we will celebrate in just 9-days, despite the threats, and despite the challenges, and despite the chasms we may have to cross, we will know – without a doubt – that our God LOVES us No Matter What!
So now, just like the crowds, and the tax collectors, and the soldiers in today’s Gospel, we too might still be asking: “But what should WE do?” And the answer, beloved, is right there in our own hearts!
We Share, Jesus Cleanses, the Holy Spirit Purifies, we LOVE and then, we Fear-less-ly Rejoice!
For the Lord our God:
Loves us . . . no matter what!
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