3rd Sunday of Advent

This week I renewed my First Aid qualification. The overall aim of the course was the Red Cross’ 3 P’s – preserve life; prevent worsening; promote recovery. Our instructor quipped that it means ‘trying not to panic as you help until the cavalry arrives’. He mentioned on numerous occasions how wonderful the ‘blue’s and two’s’ are in these situations – that moment when you first sense the blue flashing lights or hear the sirens of the paramedics or ambulance. I could agree as I recalled the times of waiting for an ambulance. Come on! Come quickly! Come now!

If you spot an Advent wreath that has a pink or rose candle among the purple ones, then you are in a church observing Gaudete Sunday – a name of The Third Sunday of Advent. ‘Gaudete’ is Latin. Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico gaudate. The English is ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.’ We know it from Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4). And it occurred to me that there is an aspect of Advent that I hadn’t taken on board so much. I’m sure I’ve thought if it before but it’s not at the forefront of my ‘Advent thoughts’. We think of Jesus’ coming and if we think of his first coming at Christmas perhaps that gives us comfort (God is Immanuel – he is with us and understands our hu-man ‘lot’). Alternatively we might think of Jesus’ sec-ond coming and that invariable has end of the world and judgement images together with cata-clysm and judgement and I imagine people think of crisis, chaos, tension (with the final judge-ment and all that) and so even if they know their future is secure, there is still turmoil as well. It hadn’t occurred to me to think of Advent as God’s ‘blues and twos’ with that initial sense of relief ‘Sigh! Help is nearly here!’.

Of course ‘blues and twos’ also mean trouble of some sort. So yes things might be tough for us but it won’t be for long. Even before the help arrives we can start rejoicing (and people do – in anticipation of the help). I just hadn’t associated the season of Advent – the call of the voice in the wilderness – the stories of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus – with the sense of relief.

It is easy to understand why I didn’t think of relief first up. Because it can so easily seem that there is no relief. Prayers not answered as we wanted. Pain persisting. Problems don’t go away (on our timetable at least). This reality just gives ammunition to the world to sneer at us. (‘Hah! You deluded fools. There is no god.’) Such things also give us struggles and even doubts. But then I’m reminded that I’m judging things by my agenda, my timetable, by what I want (and when). When will I learn?!

The manger and the cross tell me that God hasn’t abandoned me. Jesus has come into our world. Jesus will come again. And Jesus uses words, water, bread and wine to help us right now. He does help. Usually I just don’t recognise it. The Advent message with its ‘blues and twos’ also tells us that Jesus is already with us each day helping and bringing about good – even out of the worst situations we might ever find ourselves in. Gaudete!  — GS