Gaudete Rejoice

UntitledGaudete – Rejoice.   You brood of vipers? Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Do these go together? They ought to! As the French Foreign minister struck his gavel to mark the agreement of the deal on climate change, he could have cited Luke ch3 as he sent the delegates home. A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations.  The message to the nations who gathered, perhaps we might like to think them akin to a brood of vipers, fleeing from the wrath to come. In ready repentance of past actions of countries towards the environment – they are told: ‘Bear fruits worthy of your repentance.’ As they are sent out, the words of John the Baptist are most appropriate: A message to everyone. ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ There are resources enough for all on this world, IF. Ah yes, the all important word: IF.  If the nations live up to their promises. This agreement indicates a glimmer of hope for a positive response to that IF. If Tax collectors, government officials, bankers, lenders of money to developing nations ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ IF those in power, in all nations ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, being satisfied with your wages.’ Then they might bear fruit worth of their repentance.  So, Rejoice this third Sunday of Advent. Rejoice with John the Baptist, who himself seems as mad as a bag of snakes, but at least a bag of snakes knows what it is.  Why go out into the desert at all to hear this strange fool in sack cloth eating wild food?  Gaudete – Rejoice, embrace the darkness. Embrace who we are and from where we have come. Dark times are times of struggle and pain, advent-times of preparation. Don’t deny what causes us to despair, but choose to rejoice despite it. That is in essence what the nations have signed up to in Paris. Agreeing there is a problem worthy of a solution, and agreeing to do something about it.  Embrace the darkness. Use the times and places where we find it hardest to see the light to begin again.  Recognise that we are broken, individually and as a nation and choose to rejoice despite our issues and problems and our own darkness.  Return to our lives, live them in truth, and in generosity and without hate in our hearts and bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Are we running out of energy this advent? Then today Gaudete Sunday is for you! Rejoice, despite the darkness. Are we finding it tough?  Not least with the continual rain pouring down upon us? Rejoice! Does it sound like the wrong thing to do? When we talk of embracing the dark places in our lives, we might feel like we are being drowned by them.  Perhaps quite literally for some, and even in this nation, let alone those on small islands preparing to leave their whole life and home behind. But still comes the cry: Rejoice. Is this agreement in Paris ‘The One’ to save us? Was John the Baptist the Messiah? John pointed to the one to come whose winnowing fork was in his hand whose like the people had never seen before and whose message would blow their world apart.  One who would gather the wheat and burn the chaff.  I’m sorry, this was the good news?  I thought we were to be Rejoicing?  We may have an agreement in Paris at COP21 on the eve of Gaudete Sunday, and there is much to rejoice in. But for each of those baptismal promises must come our response: What then are we to do?  Asks the crowd: Go home, says John. But, go home with a new spirit of generosity towards your neighbour.  Go with peace and with justice on your heart and in your hand.  Go recognising your interdependence with one another. Go rejoicing that you too have been to a dark place and have recognised yourself and can now stand to bear the fruits of that repentance.  As we watch and wait for Jesus this advent, we are reminded of the simplicity of his message by John who went out before him to prepare his way.  Before we recognise the Christ in the baby Jesus this Christmas, we need first to recognise ourselves and be prepared to face the darkness that we might find.  Then knowing our own brokenness we can come to the stable and rejoice.

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