The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday. It’s a time to focus on "Joy.” Traditionally, the third candle in the Advent wreath of otherwise blue or purple candles, is pink. Things are supposed to be lighter in every way on the Third Sunday of Advent.
“Gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice” (which means, literally, to experience joy once more). Gaudete Sunday gets its name and inspiration from the Apostle Paul, who said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” The lectionary epistle reading for this year's Gaudete worship (Advent 3B) was 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and following: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It is not only interesting that Paul says Christians should be endlessly experiencing joy again and again and again; he is saying this at the beginning of his ministry (1 Thessalonians is our earliest letter of Paul’s) and at the end (Philippians is one of his later letters, written in prison, after many imprisonments and other great trials.)
It is a stunning command – to be joyful always, no matter what. (Because God's presence in us/Christ's presence in us by its very nature produces great joy....) Regardless of how good that may sound -- how many of us actually embrace this command, believe it, agree we are to be always joyful? Last week USA Today reported on a poll showing 71% of Americans are unhappy with the way things are today and less than half think next year will be better.
Really? And we call ourselves a “Christian nation”? Really?
Sorry, I don’t mean to get on my soapbox here. I preached last Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, and shared some of these observations.
It seems more imperative than ever that we commit to looking at scripture – and life – through the Comic Lens. Of course, “joy” is more than “comedy.” Nevertheless, I would say comedy produces an extreme expression of joy: laughter. We can’t force it, but we can look for opportunities to laugh. And experience joy plus plus plus! And we may be quite surprised -- and transformed -- by what happens when we make that commitment to seek -- and find -- the comedy that surrounds us. And, amazingly, all the time.
I once taught a workshop on “making laughter” for the San Luis Obispo Arts Council. Other artists were leading workshops on making ceramics and fabric design and the like. I was happy to be contributing in kind!
One of my favorite exercises that I came up with for this seminar was having participants go out and spend twenty minutes walking around downtown SLO looking for things that made them laugh, or at least put a smile on their faces. They were to spend 20 minutes focused on this task. Everything that they might encounter was game.
What a fun thing this was to do! And most prolific. I found myself overhearing crazy conversations (or at least hilarious excerpts). I realized all sorts of irony in the way the world around me was “organized,” intentionally or no. There were so many objects, pictures, even smells, that reminded me of funny, joyful experiences of my past; it was so fun to be able to remember them again! All this, in addition to things I noticed that were simply, delightfully comic.
When we gathered together after our 20 minutes of sleuthing, I noticed everyone had a glow. All of us were amazed at how much light-heartedness really exists all around us! Most of the time what we see around us upsets us -- it’s wrong or it’s something we want and cannot have. Most of the time our brains are tooled and work hard to produce stress and unhappy thoughts. Why do we stay in that mode, and pretty much all the time (if I may at least speak for myself!)??
In addition to remaining glum (not good for our health), seeking - and finding - the negative keeps us from receiving the powerful fuel of joy that brings energy, hope and clear-headedness to the solving of our problems and/or letting what needs to go go.
This week, as part of your “Gaudete” practice (flowing, I hope, from your experience of “Gaudete worship” Sunday and if not – if last week's church didn’t for whatever reason produce much joy or if you weren’t at church, no prob – make the whole week your Gaudete worship!), I suggest you try this little exercise in seeking the humor of the moment, and often. See what difference it makes, both for the state of your spirit and your understanding of the world around us (that God, who the Bible says we firstly and fore-mostly come to know through laughter, continues to infuse).
Here’s the sticker I handed to everyone at the end of worship last Sunday. It was more affordable than handing out pink candles, plus less of a fire hazard. Referring to the day’s gospel passage, John 1:6-8, I said, “If we aren’t to be The Light, we can always be a ham.”
Also, if you haven't already had the chance and would like to grab the (pink) bull by the horns now, here's the the webcast of last week where I talked about how we can use humor to be peacemakers....