A time of waiting… a time to rejoice
The desert waits.
Dry, hot, harsh.
No water here. The few plants are bare, shrivelled.
Perhaps the odd hardy insect colony.
The occasional tough rock pigeon.
A snake or lizard. A jackal.
Hidden away in the ground, life is dormant. Waiting.
Waiting perhaps for years.
And when the rains do come, suddenly, without warning
The desert bursts into life.
Rivers flow abundantly where once there was a dry valley
Seeds hurry to germinate, grow. Flowers to blossom.
Birds, animals and insects get busy, feeding, breeding.
The desert bursts into song and rejoices!
Isaiah’s community waits.
Scared, unsure, marginalised.
Ignored by those with political and religious power
by those who persist in walking away from God
tempted by wealth, unwise political allegiances, other gods.
The poor, the weak, the disabled are forgotten.
They wait. They wait for the trouble that will surely come.
When Jerusalem will fall and Judah will be overthrown.
When their nation will be scattered and exiled in a foreign land
far from home.
They wait in uncertain times.
And their prophets proclaim the message of doom.
Over and over again.
Suddenly, like the rainstorm in the desert comes a message of hope.
The exile hasn’t begun yet, but God will not forget his people
God will especially not forget the weakest of this people.
Here is a message of hope to sustain them in times ahead.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad…
Waters shall break forth in the wilderness.
The blind shall see, the deaf shall hear.
A road shall appear in the desert
A road of safety that all God’s people can travel along
Isaiah’s people can rejoice!
James’ community waits.
Rich and poor they wait.
The rich have been growing richer
at the expense of the poor.
James has harsh words for the rich.
Words of warning
about the dangers of unfair business practices
and not paying their workers a living wage.
The dangers of storing up wealth for themselves
whilst their employees go hungry.
God hears the cries of the poor.
God has heard you, says James to the poor.
God will come and come soon.
But you must be patient a little longer
Suffer a little longer.
Wait like the farmer waits for the rains to come and the crops to grow.
John the baptist waits.
He sits in prison, pondering his fate.
Examining his life and mission.
Wondering if it were all in vain.
Was he right about Jesus being the one who was to follow?
Is Jesus really the Messiah?
Like the prophets before him,
John’s life has been spent urging the people to repent
To turn away from their sins and back to God
or face the terrible consequences.
There will come a time, a time soon
when the Messiah will bring about God’s kingdom
And restore the nation of Israel.
He thought it would be this Jesus.
And now he’s not sure.
Jesus isn’t behaving as he expects the Messiah to behave.
So John sends messengers to Jesus
waiting behind for an answer.
And Jesus points them back to Isaiah
Look and see!
The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed
And the poor are hearing the good news.
A time to rejoice!
In Advent we wait,
We wait for the time
when we re-enact the story
of Jesus coming to earth as a little child.
And we wait for the time
when Jesus will come again
And God’s kingdom on earth will be fully realised.
In the northern regions of the world
We wait as the nights get longer
The weather colder
The plants become dormant
And the animals hibernate
We wait as sometimes our own energy levels sag
And life becomes more of an effort.
Advent is a time of waiting
A time of dormancy
A time of expectation
Christmas is not here yet
But like the message of hope
given to Isaiah’s community before they had even gone into exile
Here is a Sunday of rejoicing
Ahead of time
The third Sunday of Advent
Known in the Roman and Anglo-Catholic church traditions
As Gaudete Sunday
Gaudete – “rejoice”
Like Mothering Sunday in Lent
It’s a time of brief relief and refreshment
in the middle of a more sober, reflective, penitential season.
A time when perhaps we can take a step back for a moment
from the hustle and bustle
of present-buying, card writing
and cleaning the house for our Christmas visitors.
And rejoice because God’s kingdom is coming soon.
The Sunday when in some churches,
the clergy wear rose-coloured vestments
The Sunday when the rose-coloured candle is lit
on the Advent wreath.
The Day of the Lord is not here yet
We are still in our own desert world
Times are still tough
But we can see glimpses already
If we look long enough
We can see where, like the flowers and streams in the desert
God’s kingdom is already breaking through.
So on this Gaudete Sunday
This Refreshment Sunday
Let us rejoice too!
Catherine Burchell – Reader