Third Sunday of Advent - Joyful Readings and Prayers for Lighting the Candle

short advent-candles white purple and pink for third sunday of advent joy

The third Sunday of Advent in 2021 will be on Sunday, December 12th. There is so much comfort to be found in the practice of pausing to read, pray, and reflect over the course of the Advent season in which believers eagerly anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth. The third Sunday of Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare in our hearts a sense of holy anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus as well as for his promised second coming. We can study the Scriptures as a reminder of the ways God has been faithful to us through the fulfillment of prophecy—and find hope in the promises of God that are laid out in his Word.

The third Sunday of Advent we are invited to reflect on the joy we have access to because of our faith in Jesus. One of the defining characteristics of Christ-followers is their joyful demeanor. Let’s not allow the struggles of this year steal from the great joy we have because of Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-5 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

Over this Advent, would you pray that the joy of the Lord would be evident in your heart and home? May God’s spirit transform the days leading up to Christmas into a time of holy anticipation; preparing our hearts, as we joyfully await the chance to celebrate the arrival of our king.

Third Sunday of Advent Meaning and Symbolism.

The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” Advent in the 4th and 5th century was a time of preparation for the baptism of new Christians. Christians would spend 40 days in prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration that accompanied the baptism of new believers.

Over time, advent was connected to the coming of Christ. Originally, Christians used this term to reference Christ’s second coming, but by the Middle Ages, Advent was connected to Christ’s first coming that we celebrate at Christmas.  Today, we celebrate Advent over the four weeks leading up to Christmas each year. 

Advent season is an invitation to set your mind off the stresses of the year. We can take our focus off of the crazy hustle of the season and the sadness that could accompany the different ways some of us may be choosing to observe the holiday season this year. Even when things feel chaotic we can find peace in Jesus. Advent is a chance to focus our thoughts on the gift God has given us in his son Jesus who stepped down from heaven and took the form of a man so that we might believe.

The tradition for the third Sunday of Advent includes lighting a third sometimes pink candle that is a symbol of joy. This third Sunday of Advent we read, pray, and reflect on the joy that God’s plan gives us (foretold by the prophets and fulfilled by the life and death of Christ), and we meditate on the promise of Christ’s coming glory-filled return.

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice, and this Sunday is the time for us to rejoice because Jesus came and died so that we may live forever with him!

Looking for Advent readings to celebrate this season with family and friends? Download our FREE 25 Advent Readings for Christmas to prepare your heart for the Nativity of Jesus Christ!

3 Suggested Scripture Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-6
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!

The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,

“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland.

Isaiah 35:10
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Matthew 11:2-11
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.'

I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!

Photo Credit: ©Crosscards/Bethany Pyle

Prayers for Joy on the Third Sunday of Advent

A Personal Prayer for Joy

Psalm 51:12 says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” 

Lord, would you restore the joy of our salvation? Help us to be willing to follow you with all we have. As we read the Scriptures that remind us who you are and the ways you love us, ignite in us a sense of joy that overflows out of our hearts! Let this holy joy be contagious and spill over onto the lives of those around us. May your peace that surpasses all understanding be upon us...especially as we're wrapping up a year that has felt very scary and uncertain. Encourage our hearts with the knowledge that with you we can live in your perfect peace, no matter our circumstances. We thank you for the joy and peace you give! Amen.

A Prayer for Joy in Our World

Luke 2:10-11 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Lord, the good news of Jesus’ arrival brings such joy to our world! Reach those who are lost and searching with the message of hope that we have through the Messiah. God, allow your message of peace to bring comfort to our anxious world. As we all go about the holiday season, let the message of great joy pierce through all the noise and into people's hearts. Amen.

Other Recommended Readings

Psalm 146:6-10
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.

James 5:7-10
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

As you light the third advent candle, may you be filled with a contagious joy that is a light to all those around you. When you meditate on Scripture this week by God’s grace let your mind be filled with the peace of God. What joy we have in the knowledge that we have access to an eternal hope through Jesus!

This article is part of Amanda's series covering the traditions and symbolism of the Advent weeks. For more, visit: First Sunday of Advent, Second Sunday of Advent, Third Sunday of Advent, Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock


Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.


This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

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