Happy “Brood of Vipers” Sunday! Every year on the Third Sunday of Advent we hear John the Baptist call us a “brood of vipers fleeing the wrath to come. (Matthew 3: 7 – 12; Mark 1: 2 – 8; Luke 3: 7 – 9). Only Luke adds the admonitions to groups that were considered outsiders from the Jewish community of the time.
This is in sharp contrast to the liturgical emphasis for today. Today is “Gaudete” Sunday, or “Rose” Sunday – many congregations in the Anglo-Catholic traditions will wear Rose (not pink) vestments. The term “Gaudete” comes from the Introit of the Latin Mass meaning “Rejoice, O daughters of Jerusalem.” It signals a lightening of our Advent disciplines in order to focus on St. Paul’s instruction for us to rejoice always. At the same time, we pray for our Lord to come among us and stir up in us the fire of His love. We light the Rose-colored candle to give further emphasis on today’s importance.
We are called to live a life grounded in joy. This is not a giddy feeling that comes when something extraordinarily good happens. Rather, it is a deep abiding presence that sustains us no matter what happens – good, bad, or in the midst of a brood of vipers. This joy is ours as a gift given to us in our baptism and is one of the signs of being marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever.
The church in Philippi was a source of joy for Paul, of all the congregations he started they were the ones who got it right. So here he is in a dark, dank Roman jail filled with joy when he remembers the Philippian people and their faithfulness to the Gospel of our Lord. What does Paul do, he encourages them to remain joyful and to allow their joy to permeate every part of their lives. In this life of rejoicing, Paul adds another gift to the mix – God’s peace which passes our understanding. A peace that will guard our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God in and through Jesus the Christ.
This enables us to trust and not be afraid, even in the midst of this we cannot understand. So, too, we on this Third Sunday of Advent are called to sing for joy, to celebrate the ways in which God has delivered us, is delivering us now, and will deliver in the future, until there is true peace, shalom, wholeness on earth and goodwill throughout the entire creation. Isaiah reminds us that we shall draw water from the springs of salvation (healing). If the Lord of love is ruling how can we not sing for joy.