I have to write about this every year. Thanks for reading, as always.
Today is the day many Christian churches celebrate the Advent gift of Joy. I wrote last week about the Christmas gifts God wants to give us being all we really need. Those gifts are Peace, Hope, Joy, Love and Christ.
This third Sunday of Advent is centered around the gift of Joy. Surprisingly, wonderfully the color for today is pink. Pink! Who does pink at Christmas? The world does red, green, silver and gold. The church does blue and purple which is connected to royalty. Then, just randomly, on this third Sunday, a soft pink candle shows up.
When I was pastoring all those years in churches, no one could ever get this right, not most clergy I worked with, not lay people because it makes no sense. There are four candles in an Advent wreath, you’d think you’d start with pink or end with pink. No, you light it properly on the third Sunday in Advent. To most people it probably looks like the church just ran out of blue or purple candles and stuck a pink one in there to suffice.
From the minute I figured it out, I took delight in the soft pink Joy candle and Sunday. Later, after breast cancer, it took on even more meaning for me. Good church friends made me a pink clergy stole and told me I would always be their pastor of joy.
Our job regarding light pink joy is to receive those moments as the gifts they are. They make no sense. They sparkle by really fast. You must be awake, aware and alert (the tasks of Advent for the faithful) or you might miss them.
And here’s what I love: Biblical God Joy makes no sense like that. It is subtle. It is random. It does pop up when we aren’t expecting it. Haven’t you seen laughter at funerals, before, during and after? I’ve been at the bedside of people dying and even in pain and yet we laughed. You’ve seen it happen when you are in the most dire of circumstances, haven’t you? If you read my blogs you know my husband and I have been through a hard season, separately and together. In all that hardship, we’ve had joy when we least imagined it would come.
Shortly after my hip replacement surgery, I believe it was the day I got home, I got stuck on our couch and could not get up. I was crying, of course, because it seemed serious. At the same moment, my husband’s phone exploded with text messages that could only mean a crisis at work. Finally, through my tears, I told him to leave me there and see what was happening. We still laugh about how stuck I was that day. Neither of us can even remember how we got me up. Today’s laughter heals yesterday’s pain.
William Blake, in the poem Eternity, wrote this way back in 1804 (I added a she or two because I’m sure that’s what he meant to write):
He/she who binds to him/herself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he/she who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
Blake is trying to tell us if we try to catch joy or capture it, we may destroy it. It is not that kind of gift. True Joy is a supernatural, mysterious unexpected gift from God. Be awake enough to notice the gift and kiss it as it flies into your life, your hard times, your darkest moments.
I definitely need all the Christmas gifts of God. Pink Joy is just my favorite.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more blogs, see her upcoming speaking events or to sign up to receive Dr. Ryan’s Inner Circle email each month, go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.