Tuesday 13 December 2022

Rejoice! Gaudete!

Reflection given at Morning Worship for the Comunity of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 13 December 2022

‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.’

Today’s reading from Isaiah begins with these beautiful images of a parched land rejoicing. It is a great hymn of rejoicing, set for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, traditionally called Gaudete Sunday - ‘gaudete’ in Latin is an imperative meaning ‘rejoice’ in English. It is right for us to rejoice as we approach the joy of the incarnation of God as a human being at Christmas.

‘Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees’. These words jump out from the reading for me, because my hands are increasingly weak, my knees feeble, and I fear for the future.

There is good reason to be fearful today. We can all see the damage that is being done to our beautiful, fruitful earth by wars, by climate change, and by loss of biodiversity. They threaten to turn the earth into an uninhabitable, barren desert. Their cause is the collective greedy behaviour and hatreds of human beings like you and me.

Yet Isaiah urges us all,

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense”’.

Now, I do not believe in Isaiah’s vengeful God – I believe in the God of love that Jesus reveals to us. But the uninhabitable, barren desert we fear would indeed be a terrible recompense for our collective human greed and hatred. If that is to be the future, it will be our doing, not God’s – the world is as God has made it, and we shall reap what we sow. God incarnate as Jesus would weep with us to see it.

But such disaster is not inevitable. If you and I and enough others are strong and overcome our fears, ‘(God) will come and save (us)’, as Isaiah says. If we repent and believe the Good News proclaimed by Jesus, we will see that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. In Isaiah’s words:

‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.’

By changing our own behaviour, we can persuade others to do so too, and together we can bring about a cascading change for the better. As a result, the earth will again be a place where all God’s creatures, including ourselves, flourish as God intends. As Isaiah writes:

‘Waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water’.

As those redeemed by Christ, let us be strong, let us be fearless, and let us rejoice, as we work with God to redeem his world.


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