Rejoice, for the Lord is near

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Christmas is right around the corner, as we enter into the third Sunday of Advent. This weekend’s Mass is referred to as “Gaudete” Sunday which is the Latin word for “rejoice.” This is a time of great anticipation, of joy, and celebration. For many of us, it is a time to gather with family and draw closer to dear friends both near and far. It is a time to set aside differences, to give more than wrapped gifts — it is a time to give of ourselves, to forgive and to let go of all that binds us. 

What better way to rejoice than to forgive. Even John the Baptist struggled with doubts and fears. Given John’s current situation (in this Sunday’s Gospel), it is no doubt he had his share of fears. As anyone who has found themselves faced with uncertainty, adversity, and tragedy, John would question if Jesus was the “real thing,” sending his disciples to allay his fears. 

Yet, in this season of hopefulness, we rejoice in the promises to come, we look at the crèche and see the promise of love, forgiveness, and ultimate sacrifice all wrapped up in a small bundle of joy. That is why this third Sunday of Advent is a reminder to rejoice, because the birth of Christ is near and the promise that through His birth and sacrifice — all is forgiven if we choose to follow Christ and recognize Him as the Messiah, the Savior — “the One!” 

Yet for some of us, the last thing we may be feeling is joy. For many this may be a time when past hurts and sorrows surface and dim the hopes the season promises. Christmas and Advent are poignant reminders of what we had and may have lost. It is this concept that Isaiah touches upon in the first reading, he refers to the bareness of the desert and how even the most arid of lands will become fertile and bloom anew. A reminder that even when we find ourselves in our own personal “desert,” we too will be made whole and bear much fruit. In the second reading, St. James reminds us that it is through “hardship and patience” that the farmer awaits his precious fruit and the promise of a bountiful harvest. 

For those with heavy hearts this Advent season, simply remembering the joy, the love, and the hope that is Christmas can bring solace. This is a time when we are reminded to take heart in the memories, create new ones, and to truly rejoice in the love that we have shared and have yet to give. It is important to always keep the light of Christ and the first Noel as a guide through the darkness. During Advent we slowly begin the let the light in symbolically by lighting one more candle each week, until all four are lit. Slowly opening our hearts to all the possibilities that is Christmas. 

This time of year calls us to await the promises and to remember that just as Mary and Joseph embarked on a journey that truly required a leap of faith, so too, are we asked to believe and trust, and to be patient, not only with others, but ourselves as well. This is a time of reconciliation and forgiveness and often the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves. 

This is the season to let the light in and rejoice. To await the joyful coming of our Lord. To be childlike during Advent and Christmas and see the wonder all around us, even through our darkness. To know in our heart of hearts, that we are loved beyond measure and that God loves us in unfathomable ways, sending us a Babe to lead the way. Patiently waiting for us to fully accept and become all God has planned for us. 

Advent is a time to prepare for the bountiful harvest, to open our hearts to the possibilities and presence of Christ in our lives. To see beyond the hurts and pain and recognize the joy in its midst. To fully understand that there are no boundaries to God’s love as we await the coming of His Son, Jesus. 

So in the spirit of Advent, let us rejoice in the knowledge that we are beloved children of God, that through His ultimate sacrifice we are made whole, and that even in the darkest and most fruitless times in our lives, God is there showering His mercy and love upon us. Sending us His Son to light the way, giving us a guiding light to follow. For a star shown in the darkness leading all to find the Babe lying in a manger. It is this light that brings us through this season and guides us all year long. 

May you all find the joy in your hearts, may your homes be filled with love and laughter, and may you truly believe in the miracles of Christmas. 

Merry Christmas, wishing you all the blessings of this holiest of seasons.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Fall River and works for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. 

Email her at rsaraiva@dfrcs.com



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