Monday, December 12, 2016

About Joy - Why the Pink Candle?

Today’s blog started with a question: Why is the third Advent Candle pink?

The season of Advent was instituted toward the end of the fifth century as preparation for Christmas—a season of reflection and penance (a counterpart to Lent which was already a well-established tradition.) It’s a season of waiting and anticipation for the coming of the Christ. While Christmas colors may be traditionally red and green, purple was chosen by the early church as the liturgical color of penance thus the purple candles. The spirit of Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the coming of the Savior…as the babe in the manger 2000 years ago, in our hearts as we repent, and in his Glorious Second Coming. The pink candle signifies joy which is lit on the third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday (Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice”) when the Sunday Mass opened with these words: “Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” The penitential nature of the season is suspended on Gaudete Sunday to symbolize that joy and gladness in the promised Redemption.

That started me thinking about the unfettered joy children possess during the weeks preceding Christmas. While we adults run around like crazy buying presents, making cookies, and preparing the home for Christmas celebrations, they are running around sharing with everyone how good they’ve been all year and what they hope a certain someone will be bringing them on Christmas Eve. They can’t contain their excitement for who and what is coming.

When do we lose that abundant joy of anticipation and expectation? And how do we get it back? I think we lose it because all of our lives, we are taught that Christmas isn’t about receiving—it’s about giving. It’s the time of year to be extra nice to our fellow man. We’re taught that Christmas isn’t about what we get but how much we can give of ourselves to our family, friends, the disadvantaged. It’s the time of year when charities make their last best pitch to solicit monetary gifts on the streets and in our mailboxes. And in recent decades, it’s about where we can display a manger scene and who is offended with two little words: Merry Christmas. It’s about the commercialism of a capitalist society and about putting “Christ” back into Christmas.

Then a thought occurred to me—the kids have it right! It’s the adults that are screwing up the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas always has been about us receiving the greatest gift of all time. We should be excited about what we are getting on Christmas Eve! We should be running around telling everyone about who is coming and what he is bringing us because the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty, stepped into our meager existence as a helpless baby to bring us an understanding of himself we could never have had otherwise and the greatest gift of love—his own life for our redemption! If that’s not something we can get excited about receiving, what is? God is with us now and always in his Holy Spirit and we have his promise that Jesus will return again. What if you knew he was coming back this Christmas Eve? Would you be filled with the joy of a child anxiously waiting? And if not, why not?

As adults, we should share the love and generosity of the Lord during this holy time of Christmas, but let’s not lose that wonderful childlike joyous expectation of the true meaning of Christmas—Jesus is coming! There will never be a better gift!

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