This third Sunday in Advent (December 17) is Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. But not much joy can be seen or heard in Jesus’s childhood home of Nazareth this week. Leaders there have quieted some of the usual Christmas celebrations in protest of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Protests and violence have broken out in Bethlehem as a result of the decision. Photographs of both ancient cities show smoke-filled streets and angry protesters.
Nazareth and Bethlehem are not the only places in our world where conflict, violence, and uncertainty are daily realities. These realities—the depth of so many people’s suffering—have made this season of Advent, the season of waiting, a melancholy one for me. I am weary of waiting for justice to prevail in places where people are hungry or homeless or in fear for their lives.
So, how do we celebrate Rejoice Sunday in a world so burdened with sorrow? One of the promises of Advent and of the Gospel story is that joy and sorrow sometimes hold hands. As headlines shout disturbing, heartbreaking news, people in Christian communities continue to hold on to the countercultural, radical, and subversive promise that somehow, even in smoke-filled streets of protest, the hopes and fears of the years meet and are transformed by God’s unending love.
So, joy? Joy for me on this Rejoice Sunday is present, but it is a quiet joy, a leaning forward and looking back—a persistent moving toward hope while recognizing that hope’s promised justice and peace remain beyond where we are. In the meanwhile, God calls us to embody God’s unending and persistent love through our care for each other in the communities where we live, work and play everyday.
Photo by Sheila Hunter.
About Jill Crainshaw
Jill Crainshaw is a PCUSA minister and Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She is the author of several books on worship and ministry.