Pink. Sunday’s advent candle was pink. In a house full of boys, pink stands out. Pink is rare. Pink is welcome. Pink is often part of my wardrobe in some form or another. Maybe it’s found in my sweater, maybe in my accessories, or maybe in my socks where only I know it’s there, but I am usually wearing pink something, somewhere, somehow.
I’ve always liked the color pink, but I didn’t start this pink passion until after Baby #3 (or was it 4??) was born. Having four boys in seven years make details like that blur! Whenever it happened, that love of pink was probably my semi-subtle way of rebelling against growing up with three brothers and then having five boys of my own.
In a house where testosterone dominate in levels the FDA, DEA, or some other regulating agency in our effeminately misogynistic, government controlled America, would love to condemn, darkness abounds. Fortunately, within the walls of my home, where I still have some say in how my children are raised and can teach beliefs I hope they will treasure, it is not a darkness of attitude. I am blessed with five amazing sons, who, like most boys, simply prefer dark, masculine hues to the gayety of pink and pastels. Here, darkness abounds in color chosen more to hide questionable stains than to delight the eye.
In this darkness, pink became a welcome break. It became my statement. I might have been surrounded by little men, my day might have been spent patting down a son who insisted on smuggling toads and worse into our house in his jean pockets (despite unrepeatable threats of what I would do to him if some poor amphibian went through our washer/drier!), my dinner tables might have consisted of a week of nothing but boxes of synthetic orange powdered macaroni and cheese and smiley fries with catsup oozing from their eyes more for the delight in the gore than for delight to the palate, but by golly when my boys looked at me they’d see pink!
Today, my boys are 19, 17, 15, 13, and 7. Yep, I have four teenage boys and a little one who can rule us all with a twist of his finger and a blink of his puppy dog eyes. I am no longer frisking for toads, and I wish I could say the boys’ desire to consume massive quantities of processed mac and cheese and engage in the blatant misuse catsup has been overcome, but alas the world is an imperfect place! I, however, am still a fan of pink.
Pink in Advent
And the third Sunday in Advent always makes me smile. In a wreath dominated by purple candles signifying both repentance and royalty, the pink candle stands out. It stands alone. It burns brightly surrounded by the others, a flame lit by the same hand that lit the others’ this flame attracts the eye simply because of its difference. Pink is the sign of Gaudate Sunday, a sign of Joy beyond mere happiness. It is a Joy understood by a few and longed for by all.
The Choice of Pursuit
We’ve mistaken the US Constitution’s right to pursue happiness to mean the right to be happy, even at the expense of others, while missing the significance of the word pursue. Like much today, we place attention on what we desire to be while ignoring what original authors actually said.
If the founders had wanted the right to be happy to be granted to all citizens, they surely would have written something about the right to attain happiness. They were smart men. They checked their work carefully and each read and agreed with it before attesting to it. Our founding documents were not bills they needed to pass in order to find out what was in them. They were documents, beautiful and powerful in simplicity with each word having impact, significance, and purpose, carefully chosen to last generations.
The Bible is also a document of carefully chosen words. Some portions are beautifully and ostentatiously phrased while others are sparsely and succinctly written, but each word is important, chosen with purpose, and divinely inspired. The pink candle on Gaudate Sunday is an Advent tradition that reminds us of that. It is a reminder to live with purpose, to live differently, to live Joyfully.
The pink candle is not a promise of happiness. It is a promise of Joy.
In Luke, Chapter 2, we see that promise…
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
Reflect on the wording. “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This statement does not say, I proclaim to you good news of pursuit of great joy that might be for some people! Each word is carefully chosen. The authors understood the angel’s words to the shepherds. The angel was saying there is a difference between happiness and Joy and that you are promised the greater when you seek and believe.
The Difference Between Happiness & Joy:
Happiness is self-serving. Happiness is a want, a desire, an incompleteness within ourselves. That is why we are free to pursue happiness. We can (and should!) have happy moments, but to live in a state of earthly happiness is mythical and perhaps the greatest lie of our time. Happiness is fleeting and not fully attainable.
Joy, on the other hand, is what the angel promised. Joy is something we find when we begin to understand the depth of our Father’s Love for us. Joy is what we have when we understand that we don’t have to be good enough for anyone else because we are good enough for God. Joy is what we get when we reflect the Father’s Love in our words, actions, and thoughts. Joy is internally experienced and externally projected. Joy is attained, not through the pursuit of happiness, but through the pursuit of heavenliness.
Happiness insinuates delight through freedoms that imprison us.
Joy promises delight through restrictions that free us.
Happiness versus Joy in Marriage:
Happiness tells spouses they cannot find Joy in a difficult Marriage and the cause must lie with another. Happiness tells susceptible people they must leave and seek pleasure elsewhere. Happiness tells fools value found in being a good spouse and full-time parent is of less importance than value found in freedom of irresponsibility. Happiness deceives the self-centered into believing that if they are happy, others will be happy too.
Joy binds us to families and helps us discover power and strength in working through hard times. Joy calls us to love when loving is hard. Joy gives us the opportunity to be God-like in loving others as we are Loved. Joy helps us love when another is worthy and when he is not because God loves us when we are worthy and when we are not. Joy overcomes happiness to give even the wounded peace and a smiling heart. Joy cannot be gained through desertion, irresponsibility, or deception, nor can it be taken away by these. Joy radiates sunshine and laughter independent of circumstance.
Joy is the ability to stand alone without isolation. Joy is the union of heart, body, and soul with their Creator. Joy is achieved with the help of the Communion of Saints, those who have gone before us many of whom became devout after decades wasted pursuing happiness. Joy is a state achieved by martyrs who were blessed by knowing their Father’s Love would sustain them. Joy is achieved connecting the Old Testament to the New and discovering the truth of promise fulfilled. Joy is achieved by embracing what the angel told the shepherds and refusing to succumb to fear.
Joy is attainable, not through the pursuit of happiness or of anything that makes sense in this world. Joy is attainable when you drop all the world tells you that you need to be happy and pursue the Savior, born in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothing. “Swaddling clothing” is really a nice way of saying our King was wrapped in rags. Joy, along with Love and Hope and other virtues, is what Jesus, in His rags, brought to the world and what He will complete at His second coming. Joy will be given to all His people. Joy is attainable. Joy is Love. Joy is worth pursuing.
Advent’s pink candle reminds us of Joy to come while reminding us that “fitting in” does not bring Joy. To attain Joy, we must stand out. We must be recognizable among the darkness. We must repent, but even repentance is not enough. We must change our ways, bring light to others, and love the seemingly unlovable.
In a world of darkness that stretches beyond preference of color, a world that chooses darkness to hide questionable stains of sin and pain, a world where we worry about standing out, speaking up, and being different, a world where many are drawn by lure of the small successes of happiness offers to prevent them from seeking everlasting Joy in ALL circumstances, you are called to be different. You are called to burn brighter.
When the darkness of the world gets you down, when people seem just too cruel and life seems far too unfair to those who need justice the most, when you are tempted to slip away into nothingness or fall for the temporary victory happiness offers, remember God works in ways contrary to this world. Do not fear the cold or the darkness but keep watch in the cold, dark night as the shepherds did. Put yourself under the stars. Look up into the endless sky. Visualize those heavenly angels coming to you bringing tidings of great Joy, telling you, “Hey, don’t fear. God Loves you and He’s got this,” because they may have come over 2000 years ago, but they came for you. The message is still the same: Be different, keep watch, Seek the Christ, believe, rejoice. Great joy will be for all God’s people!
You are the shepherd of your family, of your community, and of yourself. The message of Love is intended specifically for you this Advent. That Baby who is God came to bring you great Joy, and He will come for you again simply because He Loves you and you stand out to Him.
When the darkness is at its darkest, you are called to shine your brightest. Surround yourself with Joyous believers. who will fan rather than snuff your flame. Ask the hand that first lit your fire to feed the fuel and help you glowing warmly. Never be content to do what everyone else is doing. Be one who stands out in the crowd. Be a leader. Burn brightly, lovingly, joyfully!
Be a bit of a rebel in the world today. Be the pink candle.
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