We call today Gaudete Sunday because “gaudete” means rejoice. In the readings for this Sunday, Dec. 17, we’re given a reason to rejoice — because God’s justice is at hand. He has come to save us, and we receive this in our baptism.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Dec. 17, make a strong connection with the readings we hear during Lent. What Jesus began at Christmas is completed at Easter, and we’re encouraged to think about our baptism as a reminder of this. We hear the reading from Isaiah that Jesus chose as an introduction to himself in the beginning of his public ministry, and we hear John introduce Jesus as the one who would come after him, and make baptism more than a symbol. The forgiveness of our sins in baptism is our reason to rejoice, because when we’re forgiven, we experience all of the gifts that we hear in the jubilee text of the first reading.
Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
My soul rejoices in my God.
1 Thessalonians 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.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
“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.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
It’s Gaudete Sunday — that means it’s almost Christmas! The word “gaudete” means rejoice, and it’s taken from the “O Antiphon” of the day. The readings and the pink (the priests call it “rose”) vestments reflect our sense of joy at the approaching holiday. At the same time, the readings are reminiscent of Lent—they are used at that time as we draw near to Jesus’ ultimate destiny. This day is somewhat of a companion to Laetare Sunday; the fifth Sunday in Lent. The two seasons are very much linked; we celebrate Jesus’ coming, and the fulfillment of why he came. Today’s first reading from Isaiah is a scroll that Jesus read in a synagogue during his public ministry, which we often hear during Lent. It’s about jubilee — a time of celebration of God’s love and justice toward us. We read it today because Jesus is the bringer of God’s justice to us, and that’s our reason to rejoice.
The second reading entreats us to rejoice, pray always, live in gratitude, welcome the Holy Spirit, and remember to live courageously; because God always will fulfill in us whatever God calls us to. It’s the same call that we receive in our baptism. Jesus came to model this way of life for us, and we expand his reign by living it out.
Our Gospel is an echo of last week’s Gospel — we see John still talking about being the voice crying out in the desert and not being worthy of untying Jesus’ sandal. He’s still talking about baptism. Why? Because of the link between Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death. They’re inseparable. The point of Jesus coming to us as a helpless baby is that he put himself in our hands — from the food trough cradle we relegated him to, to the grave we placed him in with our sin. That may sound a little depressing on a day that’s all about joy, but it’s Jesus’ redemption of us even when we’re awful, that is the source of our joy. Jesus is the “anointed one” — the “Messiah” (or in Greek, “Christ”) who also anoints us in our baptism to bring justice to the world.
As we get close to Christmas (rapidly!), what are you most grateful for? What things are bringing you the most joy right now?
What does the similarity between Gaudete and Laetare Sundays say to you about what we celebrate at Christmas? What does Christmas have to do with baptism?
When you consider God’s sense of justice — that he offers us hope and healing even in our sinfulness, and God’s unconditional love for all people — does that inspire joy in you?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Look at the first reading again. What words or phrases jump out at you? What do they mean to you?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”