The Sunday Project

In a World of Darkness, Rejoicing is Resistance

Third Sunday of Advent |

By Emily Tucker
Candle brightening up a dark scene
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First Reading
Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

Second Reading
1 Thes 5:16-24

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

Gospel Reading
John 1:6-8,19-28

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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This Gaudete Sunday, as we march closer to the advent of Christ, the darkness of a world without God is cut through with the light of a pink candle.

The candle, burning gently yet fiercely in the darkness, reminds us of who we are called to be in this season of darkness, this cold season of waiting, praying, hoping for the Light to bring us warmth in this world full of pain, struggle, and sin. Waiting has never been something I’ve been good at, if I’m being perfectly honest. As a queer person of faith, I see the struggle of my community and so many other marginalized groups to be accepted and brought in for rejoicing. The sin of exclusion is one that cuts deep, and sometimes, it can be difficult to sit still when you just want to scream into the dark that all you need is for someone to bring you a candle.

But the readings today show us that the waiting God calls us to do during this season of Advent is anything but passive. No, we are called this Sunday to “rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” In the Gospel, we are presented with John, who “was not the light, but came to testify to the light.”

Our rejoicing in our waiting is our testimony. We are in the darkness in this wintery world without God, but like Isaiah and John, we must be a candle, constantly burning against the darkness with our rejoicing. We must exercise radical love in order to be like the light, to strive to be made holy by the God of peace. We must not “quench the Spirit” but instead “retain what is good [and] refrain from every kind of evil.” The good is the light of our candle, burning against sinfulness. The evil is the darkness that seeks for us to blot out our own warmth through complacency: through the acceptance that evil itself is immutable.

To accept the immutability of evil is, in itself, to “quench the Spirit.” We must retain all that is good and holy: we must retain love, rejoicing, fellowship, and solidarity. We must also refrain from every kind of evil. We must refrain, then, from the evils of greed, fear, hatred, racism, and homophobia. All of these things work to “quench the Spirit” and extinguish our candles instead of keeping them ablaze and burning life, joy, and rejoicing into the cold, dark world. These candles are so important, because they are not the Light, but they come to testify to the Light, the antithesis of the sins of this world. We must actively be a presence of light against the darkness, and to do that, we must be active in educating our siblings in Christ to also “refrain from every kind of evil.”

We must be loud in our rejoicing and in our retaining what is good. We must loudly rejoice in community for the coming of God. We must rejoice with those of whom Isaiah speaks in the First Reading: we must rejoice with the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners. To rejoice with them is to fight with them. We must rejoice with the immigrant, with the queer person, with the person of color who fights every day to stay alive in this world of great evil. To rejoice with them is to fight with them. 

In our rejoicing, we must recognize that our actions are testimony for the Light, and to reflect the Light is to reject passivity and fight for the word of God, whose word will “make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.”