This morning, many Christian churches across the land lit the third candle of the Advent season- the Joy candle, also referred to as the Shepherd’s Candle. As you may recall, in most churches this is the pink candle as opposed to the customary purple candles that we are used to lighting this season. That’s because the liturgical color for joy is pink! And it’s the only one of this color that we see the entire Advent season. I should note, however, that some churches choose to use the purple color candle for this week as well, signifying the royalty and kingship of the coming baby Jesus.
Of course, the idea of joy is something that goes hand in hand with the Advent season. With the impending arrival of Jesus in two weeks, the anticipation of a Savior is growing and joy abounds. But sometimes, people don’t realize the difference between joy and happiness. While I have read and heard many definitions of joy, the best one I ever learned was in seminary. My professors taught me that joy was a condition of the heart – a choice we make that transcends circumstance.
Happiness, on the other hand, is circumstantial. If it’s raining out, you may not be happy, or if you don’t feel well, you aren’t happy. But joy is deeper than happiness – a condition that we choose to have in our hearts. Of course, it is prevalent in devoted Christ followers. So it is possible to be unhappy but still have a heart attitude of joy! And that’s what this week is all about.
The birth of Jesus changed things forever on earth. We speak of the joy of the season, even the joy of the shepherds when they learned of the birth of the Savior. The arrival of Jesus was announced to them by the angels, and next week, we will discuss our fourth Advent candle, the Angel Candle.
Some churches refer to the candle we lit this week as the Rejoice candle. You have probably heard the verse about rejoicing in the Lord always and the shepherds were rejoicing in the fields when they heard the good news. And while this is certainly acceptable, it is not as popular as referring to this week as a time of joy.
Our verse for tonight comes from the Gospel of John. The apostle tells us the words of Christ as Jesus teaches about love and joy. We are told, in John 15:9-11, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
The idea of joy becoming complete is only possible with the love of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. My encouragement this evening is that we will continue our celebration of the coming arrival of Jesus by adopting an attitude of joy. My prayer is that joy may abound in the world and that more of us will adopt a permanent posture of joy this season and throughout the year! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…