This week we light the third candle of Advent. There are many traditions surrounding the order of the Advent candles. The two most common are hope, peace, joy, and love or hope, love, joy, and peace. We are using the latter, for the reasons I wrote about last week in the pastor letter, that each week builds upon the next. The tradition of the Advent and the Advent candles is one of the latter traditions to be developed.
In the West Advent starts to be observed in the latter 6th century as a shorter less strict version of Lent. This is important because, just as each week of Advent has a meaning, it used to be practiced that each week of Lent also had a defined meaning.
Halfway through Lent, the fourth Sunday to be exact, there was a respite from the strict fasting of the season called Laetare or “mothering” Sunday where pink vestments were worn. On Laetare Sunday the pope would pass out flowers and encourage people to celebrate the promise of the resurrection. The pink color represented this respite from the violet of Lent as a toned down color.
As you may have guessed, this is where the pink candle comes from. As they condensed the seven weeks of lent to the four of advent the middle week becomes Gaudete Sunday, which has a parallel meaning. Gaudete comes from the first word of the Latin introit, which translates as “Rejoice.”
Contrary to what many people assume, the pink candle does not represent love; rather, it represents joy, and the pink color of the candle represents this respite from Advent to open up a true celebration of the joy which is found in the coming Christ.
The scripture that we have for this week is one that I call an “ordered life” reading. Like Micah 6:8, it gives us a direction of how we are to live out our lives as Christians. It starts as the Latin Introit did, “Rejoice always,” and goes on to say that we are called to perpetually live an ordered life of joy, prayer, acceptance, and exploration.
It is an interesting passage because it does not give a Pollyannaish, “life is all perfect” view of Christianity; rather, it says that we should rejoice, in everything good and bad. Moreover, it implies that there will be times of learning and struggles, but when we do give ourselves over to the Joy in Christ, we can begin to understand peace, which just happens to be the theme next week.
I think it is fitting that in the first service we will celebrate Joy as we have the kids perform their Christmas pageant. I know that they will be giving a joyful presentation of the Christmas story. And through their gifts and presence we might connect to a joy and maybe have a respite from the crazy season to experience the Joy that comes from accepting the gift of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen