The third Sunday of Advent is known as ‘Rejoice’ Sunday. We light the pink candle on the Advent wreath as a reminder of the hope and joy ahead of us in the incarnation. Traditionally this third Sunday in Advent has been a day to lighten up, to be joyful. Indeed, the whole of Advent is about looking forward in hope, but understanding that the very thing we’re hoping for is right with us now: the Christchild is here, the kingdom is among us, healing and answers to prayer are with us even as we pray.
Having said all that, today’s Gospel isn’t very joyful. ‘You brood of vipers’ shouts the straight-talking prophet John the Baptist to those coming to the river for baptism. After this outburst he continues his theme of repentance. It’s good to be reminded in this season that repentance should be a regular part of our spiritual journey. Repentance isn’t about penitential grovelling or constantly seeing ourselves as failures, but it is about owning the dark side of who we are, the side we like to cover up and hide even from those close to us. This is the side we have inherited as part of our human sinfulness that makes us consider ourselves and our own needs before those of others, and that unrestrained, can lead to all kinds of evil. If we want our lives to be transformed and to become more Christlike, then Advent is a good time to make some space for confession and reconciliation, sacramental acts that are offered as part of our parish life.
There’s an old Advent collect that says “Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us.” In this prayer, we don’t begin by asking God to stir us up, though we may need it. We do not begin with ourselves at all. We start with a challenge to God. Rouse yourself. There is work to do, and no time to lose. If we really do pray this prayer, then we have to be careful what we ask for, because if we call on God to get stirred up, it might just happen. The Holy Spirit might come ‘with great power among us’ and who knows how that might change our lives and our relationships this Advent
So as these Advent weeks continue on, and as we come closer to Christmas and our celebration of the Christ child, let us remember the source of our joy: Emmanuel, God is with us.
In peace, Mother Lynda
Gospel Reading: Luke 3:7-18