“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
–Psalms 126:1, 3, 5-6 ESV
I used to be a huge fan of Christmas. Growing up, it was my favorite time of year. I loved decorating, watching holiday shows, and generally making Christmas a special time. As I got older, my love for the season diminished. I regained some affection for it by attending Catholic Midnight Mass, and celebrating Advent also helped. But if you asked me ‘are you ready for Christmas,’ I would quickly say no and think ‘bah humbug’. For this thirty-something, Christmas is such a disruption from the work I love to do that celebrating it for 25 or more days feels ridiculous. So there you have it – I am the Scrooge of CCW!
So you’ll probably be surprised to learn that I purchased a live tree this year. I’ve never had a tree (that I purchased) for the holiday before. I had to go out and buy lights and ornaments because I didn’t have any. My first visit to the tree lot was a no-go because I wasn’t prepared for the price of real trees (so expensive). I’m still not excited about how much this tree costs. Right now, a live tree with white lights and silver and blue ornaments is standing in front of my living room window. It makes me smile.
Why did I buy the tree? I needed to buy the tree so that I could truly celebrate the season. In the same way a person will buy an expensive text book for school because they intend to study; I bought the tree as a way to discipline myself so that I can intentionally greet the coming of Jesus with celebration and joy. You see friends, I am not a great celebrator. I’m not into parties, holidays and festivities. It’s not just Christmas, but it’s New Years (I’d rather sleep), Valentine’s Day (I’m happily single) and even Independence Day (better to read a history book than go to a cookout). I’m just not a fan of celebrating – even days that I would consider sacred. I realized that if I was going to celebrate Christmas this year, I needed to be intentional about it. For me, that meant buying a tree.
During Advent, the custom of many is to light the pink candle, also known as the joy candle, on the third Sunday. It’s a signal that while the first two weeks of Advent may have been more reflective and subdued, we MUST stop and allow joy to come through. Historically, some have fasted during Advent, but they would then break the fast briefly on the Joy Sunday. The lighting of the sole pink candle was an invitation to embrace, and be embraced by joy.
This is what should happen when we light the Advent Candle of Joy: it should call us to rejoice for the sake of joy itself; even if we aren’t especially happy at the moment and especially if we aren’t typically known as joyful people. Our lives may not be exactly the way we want them, but we all have something to be joyful about. This is where we say, as Israel said in Psalm 126, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” – Psalms126:3. Unlike happiness, joy is a choice we make rooted in things beyond our present circumstances.
So as you allow the Advent light of joy to shine in your life this week, do what you need to do so that you can make the choice to have joy and celebrate all we’ve been given in Jesus. You don’t have to buy a live tree, but they’re probably much cheaper now.