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In the Pink

The Rev. Patrick Ward
December 13, 2018

On a recent Saturday in church, a visitor, noticing the pink candle on our Advent wreath, asked if it was there because we did not have a complete set of four purple ones. Those of us who are firmly "churched" might be tempted to smile at a newcomer's question. Truth is, though, that the colors and symbols and prayer postures which are second nature to some of us often invite some unpacking to people who are new—or not so new—and curious. 


Gaudete (gow-DET-tay) Sunday, the third Advent Sunday on which we light the pink candle, invites a little unpacking. And as usual, to unpack is to be reminded of much we may have forgotten. "Gaudete" is from the Latin word "rejoice." And although the Gospel of the day continues last Sunday's focus on John the Baptist, the deeper context of Advent 3 if grounded in Paul's letter to his beloved friends in the church at Philippi: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." 


Paul's words are so powerful to me because they were almost certainly written from prison in Rome. The joy into which he invites the Philippians is different from and deeper than happiness, which is a mood largely governed by circumstances and events. Joy, to the apostle, is rather the fixed stance of those who follow Christ.


The late Henri Nouwen offers the best definition I know: "Jesus reveals God's love to us... Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war or even death—can take that love away... we can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God's love for us."  


So the candle is pink and the joy is palpable because Christmas—when we live again into the knowledge that a loving God comes to share our human nature—is now so close to us. 


Christmas, of course, does not magically erase anyone's distress or unhappiness. Its message though is that unhappiness is not our ultimate meaning or final story.  It often occurs to me at funerals that we mourners are, at such times, full of grief and full of joy all at once: hammered by sadness because we miss the one we love and see no longer, celebrating that we had him or her in the first place, a pure and undeserved gift from God. Maybe this capacity—to hold grief and joy together—is part of what it means to be a person of maturing faith. 


I rejoice that we share a common life, because of Christ, at Trinity Church. See you here soon!









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