The third candle of Advent is the “Joy Candle.” While the season is penitential purple as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, week three is different. In some Christian traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the traditional Latin introit to the liturgy–Gaudete in Domino–Rejoice in the Lord! (Beth Bevis in God With Us, p 71). The penitential Purple is replaced for a week. There on the Advent Wreath stands a solo pink candle, a rapturous rose reminding us, our waiting for Christmas is nearly over.
Yesterday morning I attempted to pen a liturgically appropriate prayer reflecting the joy in this season. I failed because joy is a tough thing to wrap your heart around. I believe in the joy of the Lord. All of the Advent themes are experienced fully in the coming of the Christ–our Hope, Peace and Joy and the embodiment of Love. I know the joy of the Lord but how do you speak of joy when everything remains so. . .so broken? Can you speak of joy without sounding Pollyanna and happy-clappy?
I didn’t post my prayer yesterday but I thought about Mary receiving an angelic visitation, learning of her pregnancy and wondering what it would cost her–a child conceived out of wedlock with questions about the real father abounding. I thought of how she almost lost her fiancé to the ‘secret affair’ and yet the child she carried would be revealed as the Savior to the whole world.
Joseph was heartbroken, feeling betrayed by this virginal conception. It didn’t make sense and you wouldn’t believe it either. He was rocked to the core. And then an angel in a dream declared despite appearances this was God’s plan to redeem his people. Contrary to evidence and common sense, Joseph held on to the dream and kept his betrothal, knowing God was in the details.
The Magi, still a long way off watching the western sky, knew enough to read the signs. But the way is made for walking. Through dust and heat of desert sand they came bearing gifts. They must of wondered while they wandered if it was all a waste of time. It is always a risk to follow a star. For the joy set before them they journeyed, hoping to catch a glimpse of the newborn king.
It was hope which brought them joy in the midst of their various circumstances. It is this hope which brings me joy also. My life hasn’t been a steady march from victory to victory. I suspect yours hasn’t either. But because we carry the hope of Christ, we have joy knowing that despite appearances God is working everything together for good for those who trust in Him. I have lived with Jesus long enough to know (usually in hindsight) that failed opportunities, disappointments, unexpected losses form the humus which God uses to grow something of unimaginable beauty. I see in part, but my joy is made full as I trust in the Lord.
The apostle Paul reflected in Romans how Christ’s coming fulfilled the hopes of patriarchs and prophets and brought joy to his people:
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”[
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 8-13)
Rejoice in the Lord! The pain, the suffering, the unfulfilled longings will all meet their end. We have a Savior. He is coming. Rejoice.
We are full of joy and peace as we trust him so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit!