The Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent:
“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
Nicknames are great. They are usually affectionately given, but sometimes bestowed with a certain amount of disdain. They can often call attention to an attribute or the lack of an attribute–like calling a skinny guy, “Fats.” The third Sunday in Advent goes by many names: “Stir Up Sunday,” and, “Advent 3, ” and, “Gaudete Sunday,” and, “Rejoice Sunday,” and even, “Mary’s Sunday.” So what is so special about THIS Sunday in Advent? Why is this Sunday so special that it has its own candle color on the Advent Wreath? Why is this Sunday so special that the church has given the third Sunday in Advent so many nicknames?
In the early history of Advent the third Sunday was seen as a bit of a break from the prescribed fasts that accompanied what was then a 40-day season of penitence, much akin to Lent. In fact, Advent was known for a time as St. Martin’s Lent (but that’s another nickname story for another time). The third Sunday was a break from the fasting that lasted the other 39 days of this mini-Lent. That explains the “Gaudete Sunday” (the Latin for, “Rejoice”). People rejoiced at being given a reprieve from fasting and they rejoiced.
Also, the word “Rejoice,” appears in at least one reading for each of the three years of the lectionary cycle. “Rejoice” is also used for the “O-Antiphon” for this Sunday….AND, if THAT weren’t enough, Mary speaks the words of the Magnificat in two of the three years of the lectionary cycle in which she states joyfully, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (Luke 1:46b-48).
The rose-colored candle that is lighted on the Advent wreath is sometimes attributed to the emphasis on Mary. However, it has more to do with our rejoicing…at the nearness of the coming of our Lord and Savior. We are pulled out of our quiet Advent reflection and penitence for a special day of feasting and rejoicing. So, a candle of a different color is appropriate.
Finally there is “Stir Up Sunday.” This nickname is taken from the first two words of the Collect for Advent 3. There is also a connection with baking: if you were making Christmas Pudding now would be the time to start stirring–or if you used the recipe where it takes weeks for the batter to mature–this Sunday would be a time to take out the batter and stir it up.
No matter what nickname you use for the Third Sunday in Advent, I hope that the words from the collect appointed for this Sunday will resonate within you as we rejoice in the grace that God has bestowed upon us with the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
O, come let us adore Him,