December – Gaudete Sunday
Isaiah 35: 1-6
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
A friend of mine suggests that if Christians are supposed to be people of joy, then we should tell our faces about it. I always like it when he says this. It is a wonderful counter to a view which says that Christians are serious to the point of being dour (good Scottish word!) and suggests that if you are too cheerful then you really can’t be approaching faith with the appropriate degree of gravitas.
Gaudete Sunday reminds us that in the midst of this world’s darkness, and let’s face it there is plenty of that, the Christian message is ultimately one of hope and joy, not despair and disdain.
For me the Christians who often reaffirm my faith are those who do it with a sense of humour, energy and joy. They often realise that life is slightly ridiculous and wonderful all at the same time. They are able to look at the difficult bits and still be grateful for the beautiful and generous, the hidden greatness and the striving. They aren’t blind to life’s challenges, but they can see beyond this to the unlimited possibilities that are inherent in God’s plan. The plan of salvation that is played out in the everyday and the mundane, the travail and the tedium, the heartbreaking and the unfathomable. It is humbling to think that all of this began in the most unlikely of circumstances, namely the birth of a child in a stable 2000 years ago.