I know the stress of the holiday season is getting to me when I'm laughing way too much at liturgical memes. Liturgical memes are images shared online that poke fun at the things we do in church. As a professional religious person, I know I'm already going to laugh at any liturgical meme I find. But when the never ending to-do list of the Advent Christmas season begins to overwhelm me, I start laughing at these images longer than I should. I'm soon annoying my non-church nerd friends by sending them jokes about writing Year C (the label for the cycle of readings we used last year) on my checks and whether raisins in raisin bread can be consecrated as the body of Christ. Yet the meme I return to every year at this time comes from the movie Mean Girls and how on the third Sunday of Advent, we light pink.
Today is Gaudete Sunday which is Latin for "rejoice." In the 800s, a special Gregorian chant was created to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. In the middle of a season filled with Biblical images about the end of the world, Jesus' second coming, and with John the Baptist calling us all vipers, it's sometimes hard to rejoice. The early church wanted to break through our sense of doom and gloom and remind us why we gather together. We are here to celebrate how God continues to break into our lives with guidance, love and hope. The opening word of that special chant was simply "rejoice." And during this season when we are overwhelmed by our to do lists, rejoicing is hard. We know that the journey to Christmas isn't always a Hallmark movie. An unexpected crisis will interrupt our plans, and we will find ourselves consumed by the broken relationships in our lives. As we get closer to the longest night of the year, it can feel as if a shadow might overcome us. And in these moments, we might not be able to rejoice on our own.
Which is why, I think, the liturgical calendar interrupts our expectations and reminds us to "rejoice." We are connected to a God who loves each of us as we are. And that love transforms our brokenness, our problems, our sins, and the ways we don't love ourselves and others. The liturgy—what we do in worship on Sunday morning—is a structure to tell the truth about God, ourselves and our world. It gives us words when we don't know what to say, and it helps us pray when we can't anymore. And the liturgy reminds us that Christ's light will always shine. So today we light a pink candle instead of a blue one. We remind ourselves to rejoice. We celebrate that no matter what we do, we know Christmas will still come. And we are blessed to trust that Jesus will lead us into a life where love never ends.
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