In the old days this Sunday was known as Laetare Sunday after the first words of the entrance prayer – ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.’ The rose advent candle is lit to lift up our spirits with it is message ‘the Lord will come soon.’
In the scriptures of today we hear these words again and again: “the Lord is in your midst – your God is near – do not fear, let not your hands grow weak.” There is a spirit of excitement and expectancy in the air. This is especially true at this time every year. We are constantly reminded of how many more shopping days are left ’til Christmas. We have to make plans to host or attend Christmas parties. Christmas music can drive us crazy. The message is we have to be happy, joyous. We can’t be some kind of grinch or a party pooper. We have to get into the spirit of things, smile and be happy, put on our party hats, blow those silly whistles and sing those Christmas carols.
But for many people this is not the reality of their lives. We all know families for whom this is a very difficult time in their lives; families still grieving over the death of a father, mother, brother of sister, son or daughter. We know people who are out of work and struggling to survive. We know people who are in failing health, we know lonely people in nursing homes. We know good people who, because of personal circumstances don’t have the motivation nor the energy to be excited, happy or joyful these days.
We can’t imagine what this Christmas and Christmases for many years to come, will be like for the families of those children who died and the families of those children who survived the massacre in that school in Newtown, Ct. During this Mass we keep these good people in mind and we pray that, difficult as it is, they may hear the promise of today’s scripture, “the Lord is in your midst – your God is near – do not fear, let not your hands grow weak.” During the bleak times of our lives we all need faith to trust the truth that God really cares for us. We may not be thinking of God but God is always thinking about us. We may not feel close to God but God is always close to us.
The ancient psalmist knew this closeness when he wrote –
O Lord you have searched me and known me – you know when I sit and stand up – you discern my thoughts from far away – you search out my paths and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways – you hem me in, behind and before and lay your hand upon me – for it was you who formed my inward parts and knit me together in my mother’s womb – wonderful are your works.
Yet for a lot of people Advent and Christmas just don’t work. In fact things get worse and the pain just won’t go away. Forced joy and canned glee can disgust the best of us.
Whether we are in the season or out of it – the truth remains – we are preparing to celebrate the awesome truth – the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us and become as we all are. We try to hold on to the truth that God is with us in our good times and in our troubled times – in our joys and in our struggles.
But no matter what state of mind we may be in – we try as best we can to hear today’s invitation – “rejoice, again I say rejoice – the Lord will come soon. Our God is near – do not fear, let not our hands grow weak.”