Yesterday our church family met together for the first time – after 40 weeks of you-tubing, zooming and physically isolating. Masked, socially-distanced and non-singing some of us assembled…

We remembered familiar words from Ecclesiastes: ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…’

Many celebrated yesterday as the third Sunday in advent, lighting the third, rose-pink advent candle. Advent is a season of reflection, self-examination and penitence. The third Sunday is often referred to as ‘Gaudete’ (Latin for ‘rejoice’) Sunday. On Gaudete Sunday there’s joyous anticipation of the Saviour’s birth…

Some will have remembered St Paul’s words: ‘Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.’ – ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.’

This year many have had their season of weeping and mourning; Gaudete Sunday brings a time of rejoicing.

Over this past weekend… Some rejoiced as they returned to watching live football; others rejoiced in the semi-finals of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’… We heard two stories yesterday of friends rejoicing that their elderly parents are to receive the Covid vaccine this week.

For many being back in church was joy-full. On friend wrote, ‘Great to be back in church today. It felt very emotional and hit home how much I have missed my church family.’

Years ago I was taught about the difference between joy and happiness. Something about happiness being dependent on happenings that happen to happen; joy is much deeper and is present whatever the circumstances.

Theologian Henri Nouwen described joy as ‘the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.’

Joy can be present even in the midst of sadness; the ‘time to mourn and the time to laugh’ can happen simultaneously.

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