This post originally was published December 12, 2010, but is perfect for this year’s series on Advent.
This week brings the third Sunday of Advent. In a traditional advent wreath, the third candle is pink and is referred to as the “joy” candle.
I was taught that this candle is a lighter color than the others (which are purple) to offer encouragement that Christmas is coming, even though it may seem like it is taking forever to get here. Now, that message may resonate with children, but as an adult I can tell you that I am in no hurry for Christmas to arrive. I still have presents to buy, gifts to wrap, decorations to put up and enjoy, and carols to hear and sing again and again. Two weeks just doesn’t seem like enough time!
I also have come to appreciate the preparation and anticipation as much as the celebration. I enjoy shopping with friends, baking cookies, attending holiday parties, making a list and checking it twice. Christmas is nice, but now that my kids are older, Christmas day itself is less of a production. They prefer to sleep late and aren’t anxious to see what Santa has brought them. They know there will be chocolate in their stockings and clothes under the tree. Yes, there are still surprises, but nothing worth getting up before dawn for.
In most Christian traditions, Advent has a dual meaning: we remember the first Christmas when Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the three kings awaited and rejoiced at the birth of Christ while we also await and prepare for Jesus’ promised return. I can fully immerse myself in the traditional Christmas story, but the “second coming” is not as real to me. It wasn’t a part of my religious upbringing, which taught that that promise was (is?) fulfilled by the Holy Spirit, and it is not essential to my own personal faith. Probably at some level it scares me–the images of the apocalypse are not peaceful–and I would rather that God let us muddle along a while longer. I don’t disbelieve that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” but I hope His time is not in my time. Honestly, I am more concerned that we humans will destroy the earth while my children or their children or their children are around to suffer the consequences.
One of the traditional readings for the third Sunday of Advent is Phillipians 4: 4-7. It is one of my favorite Bible passages:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I read this prayer when I am anxious and need to feel the peace of God. I love the command to be joyful and thankful even as I experience inner turmoil, and the reminder that God is bigger than all of my worries. At this time of year, it helps to put holiday stressors in their place and focus on the joys of the season–precious time with family and friends and the miracle of that baby born in a manger so many years ago.
Prayer for the Third Week of Advent:
Bless, O God, the road that is before us.
Bless, O God, the friends who are around us.
Bless, O God, your love which is within us.
Bless, O God, your light which leads us home.