Poor little pink candle. Every Advent season she stands alone among the purple candles, ready for this particular Sunday, in which we celebrate the joy of Christ’s coming. We should be joyful all season--but especially on this day, the third Sunday of Advent. The candle waits, but every year she’s passed over.
Evangelical churches, in my experience, don’t know what to make of the pink candle. For many years running I’ve watched believers approach the church’s Advent wreath with hesitation. They light the first two purple candles--but nobody wants to touch the pink one. Better to keep doing what we’ve been doing so far--lighting purple candles. So a third purple candle is lit and the pink one is left for last, not by design but by default.
It’s not the fault of the candle lighters. Contemporary worship tends to shun tradition--and the lighting of the pink candle on the third Sunday is an old tradition. We simply don’t understand and miss out on an important symbol of the season. It’s too bad. With our emphasis on praise and worship and the Advent Conspiracy movement, this is a tradition Evangelicals could really embrace.
The third Sunday of Advent is about joy. Not the “joy of toys” or the “big joy” of “lower prices” that the sales circular promised today. No, this is the time in Advent in which we celebrate our Lord’s coming and our redemption. This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday--gaudete being Latin for “rejoice”. It takes its name from the first word of the traditional worship introit, which is taken from Philippians 4:4-6:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.
Have no anxiety? Pray with thanksgiving? Throw off the shackles of holiday materialism and let others witness your joy in the real Hope of Christmas? Sign me up! What a wonderful kick in the pants as deadlines loom and chores pile high. We need the bright pink candle to remind us, once again, that Christmas is all about the birth of our Savior.
Just as it’s easy to pass over the pink candle on this third Sunday, it’s easy to miss the joy of Advent by doing what we’ve been doing so far. No matter the deadlines, no matter your circumstances, stop what you're doing and just rejoice:
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Psalm 51:12)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)
Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again : Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)