In This Issue
- Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
- Weekly Facebook Video
- Announcements & Upcoming Events
- Outreach Opportunities & Updates
Dear St. Luke family:
Did you ever wonder why one candle on the Advent wreath is pink? The simple answer is that it’s the “Joy” candle, but that really doesn’t answer the question. The longer answer is that Advent was traditionally the “penitential” season that came before Epiphany (not Christmas!) just as Lent is the penitential season before Easter. In the early church, Epiphany and Easter were the high points of the year and so became the days to baptize new Christians. Advent and Lent were set aside as times of preparation for those who were about to be baptized, and the entire church joined in by focusing on repentance, sacrifice, and simplicity, and with solemn prayer and fasting. As the liturgical calendar and its traditions developed, purple became the color associated with the solemnity of both Advent and Lent.
Still, in the midst of such seriousness, the church recognized that Christians are never a people without joy. One writer puts it this way: “When true repentance occurs, joyful obedience is the result; thus, there is joy to be celebrated even in the most penitential times.” Joy is not only a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in an individual’s life (Galatians 5:22-23) but also something we experience when we participate in God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And so, one Sunday was set aside in each season – the fourth Sunday in Lent and the third Sunday in Advent – to focus on joy. The color pink (or more accurately, rose) was chosen as a reminder on these Sundays that even in the midst of longing, penitence, and fasting, the church never ceases to rejoice. The fourth Sunday in Lent is known as Laetare Sunday in the Roman Catholic tradition; “Laetare” is the Latin word for “rejoice.” The third Sunday of Advent is “Joy Sunday.”
Eventually, many churches, including St. Luke, switched to blue for Advent to distinguish it from Lent. Some churches still use that penitential purple for both seasons, however.
Okay, now you know the history and tradition. Does in mean anything to 21st century Protestants who wouldn’t even think of fasting during the weeks leading up to Christmas, except maybe in trying not to overdo it at the season’s parties? I think it’s meaningful in two ways. First, American Christianity still has a slight taint of Puritanical suspicion of fun. We aren’t too many generations away from a severe and judgmental approach to faith; some traditions still condemn earthly pleasures. Joy Sunday is a reminder that God our Creator created us in joy, created us to be joyful, and joy is God’s gift to us. Second, like the other three Sundays of Advent – Hope, Peace, and Love – Joy is to be something we practice. Rejoicing is in fact a spiritual practice that increases our connection to God and to each other, and isn’t that what faith is all about, in the first place?
This Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, we’ll take a look at how we might “Rejoice in the Lord always,” as the Apostle Paul put it. We’ll enjoy both familiar (but with a twist) and contemporary Advent music as Mikki and Cole Tate join Beth and Erich, and we’ll light that pink, er, rose candle. We’ll enjoy the warm fellowship of being together in the sanctuary, and (drum roll, please), we’ll enjoy hearing an important announcement from the Pastor Nominating Committee! Don’t forget: There is no Zoom worship this Sunday.
Grace and peace,