Ah the irony of preparing in advance! Who would have thought when we planned this series of story books in around April this year that we would be reading Down by the Cool of the Pool and the Isaiah reading of streams in the desert at the end of the wettest period in this region in 40-50 years!
But this 3rd Sunday in Advent – “Joyful Sunday “or “Gaudate Sunday” is about experiencing the unexpected. Still holding off on the Carols (other than in the Very Kippax Christmas at 945 today) because we are following a good, solid Christian discipline of preparation. And hopefully, in the preparation, the anticipatory joy is catching. Like from a frog to a cow and a horse and a pig splashing around in the pool.
I wonder if it was relief, or excitement, of just the plain joy of something entirely different.
When the Israelites waited in exile, the promise of the prophet was of climate change Not the sort of climate change that threatens the globe these days but a change from emptiness to completion, from dryness to blossoming. Far from the experiences of the floods of this past week, the image in Isaiah 35 is of life and of connections: Blossoms in the wilderness and an easy way of all God’s people connecting. No longer separation, no longer alienation, no longer exile, no longer barren living No wonder the image is of joy
We’ve been hearing a bit of Walter Bruggemann over the past couple of weeks “People are given back their lives, ” he says about this passage “Humanity is restored to full function”
But we read this text in the midst of our Advent waiting. Of course, the world around us has already charged ahead full-steam into the Christmas season and will have tired of it by December 26, but in the church we are still in a season of waiting and anticipation, and preparation, too. With one foot in the world of a waiting church and the other foot in the celebrating (and shopping) world, we may find it one more challenge to hear these promises without going into overload. Even good news can be too much to take in when we’re too busy to hear it.
Advent – the waiting in Advent – gives us a true chance to learn to celebrate. Brueggemann again: “God does what the world thinks is not possible. Advent is getting ready for that impossibility which will permit us to dance and sing and march and thank and drink – and live!”
If you want to capture the strange sense of singing celebration in Advent then we hear it in our 2nd reading when again the preparation for transforming impossibility is met with an outburst of joy
“Tell out my soul, the wonders of the Lord” Why? Because the unmarried teenager is about to have a baby?? No!, because there is a promise that the world will be transformed so that no one is abandoned and there is probably no more powerful symbol of voicing this than an unmarried pregnant teenager in a world ruled by male hierarchy and values.
But I hope the joy in Mary’s song is catchy – like the joy with the frog and the cow and the horse. Because the message of Gaudate Sunday, Rejoice Sunday is for you to jump on in the water’s great!