Having a hard time with the holidays?

Image source

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

(You'll need to listen to the audio for the musical elements in this homily)

Audio for homily

Happy holidays! Happy Holidays!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
It’s the hap-happiest time of the year!

That’s what the songs say but the truth may be different.

• If you tear off the bright ribbons and wrappings of Christmas,
you might uncover some sadness underneath...
• If you look closely behind all the quick and easy holiday smiles,
you might find tears, tracing a trail down worried faces…
• As you listen to Christmas music,
you might hear hearts echoing the emptiness of hurt and loss…

Much of what this season pretends to be is, for many, just that:
a pretense, a posture: a presumption
that we’re all supposed to feel and act in a particular way,
-- in a particularly joyful way.
For many, that’s very difficult; for some it’s nearly impossible.

So St. Paul’s words today might come at just the right time.
even if what he wrote might seem more a part of the problem
than the solution.
Remember these words from the second scripture?

Rejoice always! 
Pray without ceasing!
In all circumstance give thanks!

That’s a tall order,
especially if you find the holidays to be a difficult time.
But it’s a tall order that might serve us very well.

Rejoice always!
In the hard times, on the most difficult days, on the loneliest of nights,
rather than sitting with the sadness and losing ourselves to grief,
we can search our hearts for the memories and stories
of joy that has been ours.
We can savor those memories
and invite them to lighten our heavy hearts,
to shine like a candle against the darkness:
not to quench the Spirit who always seeks to lift us up.
We can rejoice always
if we treasure the joys that have been ours.

Pray without ceasing!
Some people are tired of praying.
They’re tired of praying because they’ve prayed for so long for
someone, or something or for themselves
and it seems that God’s not answering - maybe not even listening.
But no prayer every leaves our lips without God’s hearing it
and even unspoken prayers, hiding in our hearts' silence,
are all heard by God.
God’s might not answer quickly or in the way we want,
but prayer always draws us closer to the Lord,
who knew, himself, what it was to cry out
when it seemed no one was listening… and no one was answering.
We may not readily receive what we pray for
but every prayer draws us closer to the love of God
and the presence, the companionship of god
is the first answer to every prayer.

And Paul writes: In all circumstances, give thanks!
No matter what the situation, in good times and in bad,
we need to thank God for what we have, for all that we’ve received,
even and especially,
when we find ourselves needing, wanting, asking for more.
So often, when we’re truly grateful for all that we do have,
the list of things we think we need shortens quickly.
As it is with our joys, so it is with our gratitude.
I may not be joyful today and I might be in need today,
but we all have a history of God’s goodness to us
and for which we have reason to give thanks and praise

Rejoice always!

Pray without ceasing!

And in all circumstances, give thanks!

Let’s stop for a moment and close our eyes…
and remember something joyful in our lives…

And in prayer, let us give thanks to God for that joy…

And hold that joy in your heart for a moment…

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


  1. Loved it. Outstanding!!

    Your congregation have some fine voices and by the sounds of it and the spontaneous applause at the end, they really enjoyed singing as much as I did, while I sang along with you all the way across the pond.

    Thanks Austin, for making this a truly memorable Gaudete Sunday.

  2. I was away from the parish I belong to this weekend-
    (oh, I feel I have so much in my heart that I want and need to say right now, but I know I don't have the words for all of it)

    let me start with this:

    In the homily I heard today, the priest first talked about a retreat he recently was on-
    he said that the retreat leader asked the participants to try something:
    before they went to sleep, write down the things that brought them joy that day.
    Now, this priest already made a practice of writing down things he was grateful for, so he found himself struggling with something-

    what's the difference between joy and gratitude?

    But soon he realized that it was actually quite simple.
    The things that bring him joy make him smile-
    and the things that bring him gratitude SOMETIMES make him smile, but NOT ALWAYS.
    (I could really understand this and relate to this- I feel grateful for things and people- a lot- but it doesn't necessarily make me smile- or make me happy)

    This priest I heard today talked about the joy the Lord asks us to feel-
    it is not the "giddy, over excited kind of joy"--
    but the quiet serenity that we feel when we know the Lord is with us-
    EVEN in difficult situations and circumstances.

    (I need to repeat this)

    the quiet serenity that we feel when we know the Lord is with us...

    I felt that today-
    amidst lots of unquiet chaos around me and inside of me-

    what brought me joy today?

    hearing these TWO homilies-
    and the very new understanding and realization that I have not failed because I don't feel "joy" the way we are "supposed" to feel-

    thank you.

  3. As a friend of mine sometimes says, "That was absolutely beautiferous!"


  4. You are a gift to the world, Fr. Fleming! I was feeling very melancholy, missing some family members that I love deeply. Your inspirational words enabled me to step back for a moment, relax and fondly recall some of the many wonderful Christmas traditions we shared. I try to hide my holiday tears by keeping busy, smiling till my face hurts but now I will make an effort to rejoice in the joy I experienced with my loved ones. Thank you so very much for putting things into perspective. God bless you always.

  5. Amazing...I am always sorry when I am away from HFP on Sundays...but so very grateful to have taken part in this way...


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!