On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake, and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings!
Then cleansed be ev'ry breast from sin;
Make straight the way for God within;
Prepare we in our hearts a home,
Where such a mighty Guest may come.
For Thou art our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Thy grace we waste away
And flow'rs that wither and decay.
To heal the sick stretch out Thine hand,
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth and let Thy light restore,
Earth's own true loveliness once more.
All praise, eternal Son, to thee
Whose advent doth thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost for evermore.
Today marks the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally referred to as "Gaudete Sunday," so named after the first word of the Introit to the Mass for the third Sunday of Advent, taken from Paul's letter to the Philippians: "Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico, gaudete" ("Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice" [Phil 4:4]). Advent, as I have previously discussed (here and here), is the time of preparation for Christmas, and hence has a somewhat somber, penitential tone as the worshipers places themselves in the shoes of those Jews in continuing exile who waited longingly for the advent of their hoped-for Davidic Messiah, and look forward themselves for the anticipated second advent of their Lord to consummate his kingdom.
Yet on this, the third Sunday of Advent, the tide begins to turn as the advent grows ever nearer and Messiah's forerunner is on the scene preparing his way and proclaiming the message of repentance in view of the kingdom's imminence (hence Charles Coffin's [d. 1749] hymn "On Jordan's Banks the Baptist's Cry," sung splendidly in the link above by the choir of Wells Cathedral). Indeed, in the Anglican liturgy the Gospel text for today is Matthew 11:2, which finds John imprisoned and questioning whether Jesus was, after all, who he had claimed him to be. Jesus' response, drawn from the language of Isaiah 61, provides the reason to rejoice: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the poor receive the message of good news. Such events could mean but one thing: the Messiah had indeed come, and that Messiah was Jesus.
I leave you with the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.