Advent: Joy

SPOILER ALERT: This is part of the Christmas Eve Sermon. If you don’t want to spoil the sermon, click here for another devotion.

Advent Joy

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11

We’ve been talking for the last few days about candles on the Advent Wreath. Today I want to pause and give you a little, quick context.

Advent is a season of preparation – first we wait symbolically with Hebrews of old for the first coming of Jesus the Messiah (at Christmas), second we wait spiritually for the second coming of Christ (when he will come to permanently defeat sin and death and make all things new).

The Advent Wreath has been used in Western Christianity for about a thousand years. First, the wreath itself is an evergreen ring. With a ring having no beginning point or end, it symbolizes the eternality of God and the immortality of the soul. Ever green, it also signifies the promise of eternal life. Often other forest clippings are added to the wreath, representing other parts of the sacred Christ’s story – laurel (victory), prickly holly (crown of thorns), red berries (blood of Christ), pine cones (seed of new life).

Atop the wreath there are at least four candles – and often a fifth in the center, the Christ Candle. Most of candles are blue or purple. Purple historically represented prayer and sacrifice. Blue is a more recent liturgical option, symbolizing all these things … and hope! Each candle in this evergreen ring has a meaning – although there is not unanimity on the symbolism of each. Some faithfully call these candles “The Prophecy Candle,” “The Bethlehem Candle,” “The Shepherd’s Candle,” and “The Angels’ Candle.” The third candle is rose colored, because of the shepherd’s joy when the birth of the Messiah was proclaimed.

The third candle is, indeed, the candle of JOY. Our pattern at Spirit of Joy labels this instruments of light as “Hope,” “Peace,” “Joy,” and “Love” – and our third candle also reflects the rosiness of joy.

A white candle is often placed in the middle. It is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve. This “Christ Candle” is white to represent the purity and sinlessness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

You’ve heard me talk about joy a hundred times. For example, I’ve learned (and shared with you) that “happiness is circumstantial, but joy transcends our circumstances.” My most significant learning occurred, though, when I went looking for a Biblical definition of joy. You’ve heard this before, right?

  • I started in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. The first time joy occurs is when God breaks four hundred years of prophetic silence, and proclaims the birth of John the Baptist, the herald of the New Kingdom and the Coming Christ. And there was joy.
  • The second instance of joy was when the first person “met” Jesus. It happened in utero. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when his mother, Elizabeth, met Mary who was carrying Jesus in her womb.
  • The third occurrence was when the angels came to the shepherds – our verse for today – proclaiming, “‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Notice what happens here every time: Joy breaks through when the Kingdom breaks in!

And so our question for today is this: This holy season, how are you allowing the Kingdom to break through? Worship? Devotions? Less busyness and more spiritual focus? Time around the Advent Wreath?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

more pure joy

(Guess what I

need to do?)

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