I’m prone to worry and anxiety. I’m also prone to panic attacks that sometimes have no rhyme or reason. Recently, I found myself in a full-on panic attack, complete with racing pulse and hyperventilating at 34,000 feet on American Airlines coming home from NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) in Indiana. I had a great weekend. I was filled with hope from the witness of the young Church fully alive. I had the knowledgeable bliss of extra Marriot toiletries in my luggage. I had a peaceful trip to the airport with a good friend and a tall, skim, extra hot, peppermint hot chocolate warming my belly. And then…panic. As my pulse raced during takeoff I tried to recall a calming technique I had read somewhere about the senses. What do you see? I see flight attendants ignoring my panic! What do you hear? I hear babies crying because babies are intuitive to danger! What do you smell? Fire. The plane is on fire!! Oh geez. Longest 55-minute flight of my life.
And that was a weekend where I was disconnected from news and daily life. A weekend where I didn’t hear about ISIS, or school shootings, or starving children, or climate change. A weekend where I didn’t have to deal with my own struggles of finances, family, or buying pants. (For some, it’s bathing suits. For me, it’s pants.) And that’s not to mention my long list of irrational fears including Benjamin Franklin impersonators and walking over bridges. Trolls. Trolls WILL grab your ankles. Friends, I’m a hot mess.
Enter the Third Sunday of Advent. Enter the joy. Enter the rejoicing. Yes…even if you are predisposed to worry and anxiety. Even if you are predisposed to Eyore-ish gloom and melancholy. Even if the state of the darn world has just got you down. Enter the hope of something bigger, something better!
Here we are. Lighting this third candle. This pink/rose candle that represents the Gaudete (rejoicing) of the readings this week. The rejoicing we hear in the first and second readings includes (and shout outs to Zephaniah for his only uplifting text, um, ever.), “Shout for joy”, “Sing joyfully,” “You have no further misfortunes to fear,” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst.” ” Rejoice in the Lord, always!” “Have no anxiety at all.” And in the Gospel after the crowds question John the Baptist repeatedly, asking what they should do, he simply and humbly tells them, “…one mightier than I is coming!” Oh. Wait. Yes!
This rhythm of Advent has us entering into this third Sunday with audacious hope and audacious in-your-face joy!! Do not confuse this with the good cheer that comes from winning the Ugly Christmas Sweater contest and a good cup of eggnog. These scriptures beg the worry-ridden soul to steep in them like a giant bathtub filled with lavender salts and saturate our very beings. Let this truth sink into every pore. Light overcomes the dark. He overcomes the dark. The One, The Incarnate, The Wee Babe of Bethlehem, He is coming! The One Mightier than our fears, irrational or real, is coming. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But this time of preparation during Advent is a glorious, joyful reminder that God is bigger than the state of the world or our worries, big or small. Take solace. Take real, deep, comforting solace in the words of the scripture this Sunday. There is nothing our God cannot overcome. Even buying pants.
Gaudete, friends. Rejoice!!