Today we lit the third candle on our advent wreath…the pink candle Each season of the church year is associated with a colour… red for Pentecost and palm Sunday, green after Pentecost, white for big celebrations like Easter, Christmas etc, purple for lent and blue for advent. However, some of you know or perhaps even remember… that Advent used to be purple.  Advent and Lent were both considered times of preparation…getting ourselves and the church ready for our Lord’s incarnation or resurrection and so both were symbolized rich, imperial, expensive colours.  And historically the most expensive colour to get was indigo…Tyrian purple…a deep purple/blue used by emperors and kings.   So, either blue or purple were used in the medieval church…the important thing was to get the richest, deepest most royal colour you could.  However, in our days colours are easy to make and indigo isn’t an indication of wealth, so we’ve lost that symbolism.  Now, it is the meaning we associate with the colour that is important and in recent times we’ve begun to apply different meanings to advent and lent… lent remaining highly penitential and advent becoming more focused on hope and anticipation…and so Lent remained purple, but Advent became blue to visually differentiate between the two. Yet…one other colour is included midway in both the lenten and advent seasons…halfway through both is a single Sunday of pink.  A lighter colour, a happier colour, one associated less with discipline and more with Joy.  In both the Sunday in Lent and this Sunday in advent the opening words of the ancient latin service were “REJOICE”.  Today the theme as seen in our liturgical colours and in our scripture readings is the theme of Joy.  A joy that is absolutely all consuming, a joy that is only heightened with anticipation, a joy that is worth waiting for. One of my strongest memories of Christmas morning growing up was that of my sister and I sitting in our P.J.'s, cuddling our dolls at the top of the stairs.  Giggling with anticipation, bouncing with faith, and glowing with sheer excitement…delighting in the anticipation of Christmas morning.  I say anticipation because it did not matter how early my sister had woken me, we knew that until the smell of coffee wafted upstairs it wasn’t permitted to come down…we had to wait, and giggle, at the top of the stairs. We had to wait, hope and sit in expectation of the joys that were to follow…and sometimes we had gotten up way too early and had to sit a very LONG time.             But we knew…knew with absolute certainty from the experience of years past, knew because of the unconditional love our parents had for us and us for them, and knew because of our childlike faith in the mystery of Christmas that the time would come…hopefully sooner rather than later….when the waiting would be over and we would be invited downstairs to participate in the pure joy of Christmas morning.                          In advent we are not only anticipating the birth of the Christ child, but the second coming of Christ and the kingdom of God.  The kingdom which will enact that final miracle which will bring; hope, peace, joy, love and Christ eternal.  A kingdom that will transform the world and reconcile all people into one body, one in Christ.   “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.”   The miracle we are waiting for goes all the way back to God’s creation of the world.  Today we recall that promise in the word of the prophet Isaiah.   Isaiah was speaking here to the people of Israel,  things hadn’t gone well for them,  they had faced war, oppression, deportation and generations in captivity and now they were dreaming of the return home, lead by a vision from Isaiah. A vision and a promise that was focused on health, wholeness, reconciliation, and joy.  A vision that wasn’t solely about the idea of going home, going back to the land of Israel after captivity, rather it was a vision of the rebirth of a wounded community.  In ancient Israel there was a huge social distinction between Jews who were ‘religiously clean’ and thus fully able to participate in the community and those were ‘religiously unclean’ and barred from community life.  Which included those who were blind, who were deaf, who were lame or in any other way did not fit the standard of the mosaic law.  So, when Isaiah proclaims “strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those of fearful heart, ‘be strong, do not fear!” “that the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.’  Isaiah is not only proclaiming healing and wholeness to a world and a people who believed disability was punishment for sin, but that wholeness is given to each and all God’s people regardless of human understanding.  Isaiah was saying that everyone has cause for joy, and that an opportunity is coming from God to be one people, whole and holy.  A kingdom was coming that would bring joy beyond that of any human kingdom.         The challenge is that as we move through the timeline of scripture to the time of the gospel reading…this kingdom promised had still not arrived.  Some 700 years had passed and the Vision of Isaiah had yet to come to pass.  People who suffered were still assumed to be cursed and community was still divided amongst itself.  It seemed like 700 years had passed and nothing had changed. Last week we had heard in the gospel reading John the Baptist proclaiming his gospel of repentance, calling to all and sundry to prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom.   The same goal as Isaiah’s vision, but with a little more…fire and brimstone.  O ye Brood of Vipers!  But John’s point was that perhaps God’s kingdom was not there yet, because the people weren’t trying very hard to live into it.  They were not bringing community together but tearing it apart.  They weren’t living in the law of the Lord, but sinfully flaunting it by bending the rules, or by assuming privilege.  Remember John’s rebuke to the Pharisees: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'”   Us and them, division rather than community, sin rather than righteousness but still John had faith.  Waiting and proclaiming God’s word…hoping and praying for the advent of God’s kingdom.  Doing his part to pave the way, as God had called him to do. Proclaiming that the kingdom that is coming and the Messiah who would change the world after 700 long years was near at hand. Still, we see this week that John the Baptist’s faith is a human faith just like ours.  Alone and in prison, John sends a message to his cousin Jesus.  “are you the one who is to come? Or are we to wait for another?”  After all the waiting, after so little change, after what John has suffered… he has to ask.  And that is ok.  Never does John imply he has given up his faith, his hope or his God given vision, but a bit of clarification would be nice.  And as always, Jesus answers indirectly, quoting the vision of Isaiah we read today. The blind have received their sight. The lame now walk. The lepers are clean and the community is being restored.  The Vision of Isaiah is coming to pass….slowly.             The epistle of James speaks to this as well, but in a far more forthcoming manner.  James says.  Be patient, just as a farmer is patient for the precious crop.  There will be rain, and sun and in due course…and then the deserts themselves will blossom.  There have been great promises made.   Made by the very one who sacrificed everything to ensure those promises are fulfilled, but as for that day and time.  No one knows except the Father.             So, as James says we must be patient, and as John says… we must live as if the kingdom is here, live as if Isaiah’s vision of joy and restoration has been accomplished. That is what we do in advent, we remember the visions of God’s kingdom to come and we live into that promise and that joy.  Something that seems especially easy this time of year, as we wait for the joys that Christmas brings.  The kind of joy that is exemplified in the Christmas joy I remember experiencing as a child.              We are still invited to enter into that joy.  We are still called to live in childlike faith and absolute trust that when Christ comes again, and he will, a great mystery will occur and great joy will abound and the world will be transformed.               We live in the time of anticipation,  we are sitting at the top of the stairs...just waiting for the time to come when we can rush into the kingdom of God and receive those gifts which will surpass anything given or received Christmas morning.             Today we celebrate the joy of waiting…tomorrow…tomorrow perhaps we will celebrate the joy of arriving.  So, until that day and time arrives, let us rejoice and embrace living in joyful anticipation.  Let us rejoice in this season of advent, rejoice in the season of Christmas, rejoice that the Lord is near, rejoice and live into the kingdom of God. Amen