Today, we gather to Rejoice! Is it not premature to Rejoice as we still make our way through the darkness of the season into the mystery of God’s love? You may wonder!!
Come, let us explore together the call to ‘Rejoice in the Lord, Always’.
The ‘Act of ‘Rejoicing’ in the Christian worship and witness is a curious one like most of our faith in action. When we consider some of the reasons for rejoicing in our Christian Tradition in the Scriptures, we realise that they are most ridiculous. The best of them all is what our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew 5.11-12). I suspect the Lord read the Prophet Habakkuk too closely. ‘Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Hab 3.17-18)
In keeping company with our Lord Jesus and his company, I suspend all human reasoning at this point in the Christian season and rely on the Divine reason alone. That divine reason takes us through some most exciting places. We hear Psalmist say, ‘Darkness is not dark to you. Darkness and light to you are both alike!’ (Ps 139.12) In this divine reason, ‘darkness and light are both alike’ for we know, ‘for with you (God) is the well of life and in your light we see light.’(Ps 36.9)
Is this some kind of mystery language? Well this week was punctuated by some exciting moments that if you hear me speak in mystical language, then here is some liturgical reasoning. On Wednesday of this week was the first of three Ember days of Advent/winter. We fast and pray during the Embertide on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And the Wednesday Emberday coincided with the feast of St Ambrose.
Those of us who have taken time to examine the inside of ‘Ciborium’ i.e. the canopy over the Cathedral main altar would have come across the ‘Doctors of the Church’ i.e. of the Ancient Church like the Aberdeen Doctors of the Reformation Church. St Ambrose was one of the four and our first hymn today, ‘Hark, A herald voice is calling! Here we need to pause for a moment!
Hark! A herald voice is calling!
One of the central themes of the Early Church is a call to Repentance! at every liturgical season. The call to Repentance was as urgent to the Early Church as it was to the world of its time. However, our church today has grown out of this ancient Tradition of ‘Repentance’ because we have reasoned out all ‘sin’ and we have found ways of inventing new sins which can be reasoned out with the tradition. So, if we are aligned to the trends of our Church today, our Ambrosian hymn will have little or no relevance to following Jesus and live a life of holiness for we have no sin! When repentance is made obsolete, we will have nothing to rejoice in. If relationship with Jesus is our ultimate purpose and joy, the repentance becomes integral to that relationship and ‘Rejoice’ becomes a divine response. The Divine Logic links Rejoicing to Repentance. We cannot rejoice without repentance.
Today, as we come to begin our journey with John the Baptist, we note that John ended up in prison for calling Herod to repentance. He ended up in prison for his prophetic voice. In prison he suffered ‘depression’ and doubted the messianic call of his cousin Jesus. Today, as we commit ourselves to the ‘Act of Rejoicing’ , we pray for all who suffer persecution and imprisonment for calling the powers to repentance and resisting injustice and disempowerment. May our souls constantly long for the coming messiah and repent of all that distracts us away from the joy of the Lord. Rejoicing is a response to the joy of repentance.
Besides the spiritual reason for rejoicing, we have a simple reason to rejoice too. Six months ago we applied for Public Entertainment License which will enable us to resume our Cathedral @ Noon Concerts and other events. We worked in partnership with the Aberdeen City Council to comply with all requirements of health and safety. On Friday at 1pm we had the final inspection and by 3pm we were notified that we have been granted Public Entertainment License. The Trustees will now focus on restoring all events that proved to be a blessing to the city and the community.
Yesterday I met a couple who were regular at the Cathedral @ Noon Concerts and found it a source of healing in Dementia. They were thrilled at the news of the Concerts resuming in January. Thank you for your prayers and support. We have another reason to rejoice.
Come, Let us Rejoice!