Gaudete Sunday (/ɡaʊˈdɛtɛ/ gow-DET-eh) is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of Western Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, Lutheran Churches, and other mainline Protestant churches. It can fall on any date from 11 December to 17 December.
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.
This may be translated as: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1
So rejoice, Loves, it’s time to light that pink candle on the Advent wreath. This month is really zipping by. First up, this wonderful video from Bible Project:
So powerful. Christian joy isn’t just being happy. It’s a choice (like love) made with and through faith that even in the midst of varying circumstances, God will prevail. God’s got you.
With that in mind, this week I’m going to write about choosing joy. Last year’s Advent posts stopped after the first two Sundays of Hope and Love. Buried in the morass that was 2020, I simply couldn’t contemplate joy in any real sense. I couldn’t even muster the energy to write about being joyless. So I didn’t write. But this year… well, here I am.
Earlier this year, in the spring, as the COVID numbers began to drop, and the restrictions began to ease, I became excited that I was finally going to be able to see my mom in person (after a year of lockdown only allowed Facetime and phone calls). She lives in an assisted living home, and has Type II Diabetes, early onset dementia, and had been in remission from breast cancer since early 2020 (after undergoing a mastectomy in the fall of 2019).
She had been in remission. She went to the hospital for what turned out to be a severe case of a UTI, and underwent scans that revealed the breast cancer had returned and spread to other organs. My excitement transformed into shock, fear, anger, and despair.
I spiraled a bit, to be honest. She had been cancer-free in March 2020. Then the world stopped because of the pandemic. Her regular scans were put off, and her doctor just used blood work to avoid the COVID exposure that would be guaranteed with repeat trips to the hospital for more invasive testing. And her bloodwork kept coming back fine for a year, until this spring… when scans and a subsequent biopsy confirmed the tumorous spread invading my mom’s increasingly frail body.
Joe scrambled to make appointments with oncologists and other doctors, pushing for treatment options. I cried in therapy, began battling anxiety, and lost my appetite long enough that I realized with shock that I weighed about as much as I did as a teenager.
I raged when Joe told me there would be no treatment- after a year of being pretty much isolated in her room, my mom had grown so weak she didn’t qualify for chemo or even hormones to slow the growth of the cancer. We were told she had 3-6 months, tops. I prayed to God to please let her see her 72nd birthday on September 17th.
On that day, Joe, his wife, Jenny, K, Z, nephew Justin, and I sang her “Happy Birthday.” I had sent giant pink helium-filled mylar balloons that morning. The numbers were wrong. It was a huge “7” and “1.” K joked that she was turning 17, while I figured it was fine since COVID had stopped us from celebrating her 71st.
Last week, Mom was back in the hospital for treatment for yet another UTI (as an aside, I can attest, Succession fans, yes, they can make seniors get very loopy). Scans were run, and this time, the doctor had some unexpectedly good news. The cancer in her liver shrank. So much that the doctor went over the scans 3 times. Since there’s been no cancer treatment, he was quite surprised.
In the Bible Project video above, we learn that Paul, while imprisoned was “full of sorrow” yet was still “rejoicing.” He “acknowledged his pain”, but chose to believe “his loss wasn’t the final word.” I’m full of sorrow because I know I’m losing my mom. Yet, I will continue to choose joy; not fake toxic positivity that denies the reality of the situation or the depth of my heartbreak. No, I’m choosing joy through hope, joy in “faith through Jesus’ love“.
This week, Whitney Houston and The Georgia Mass Choir with “Joy to the World” from The Preacher’s Wife, which is one of my mom’s fav Christmas movies, with one of her fav singers, with her absolute fav actor. Have a great week.