The pink candle isn’t the only thing that stands out in Advent. It’s the whole idea behind it that stands out.
We light the pink candle at the start of Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent. The Latin word gaudete means “rejoice,” referring to Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
So, in the middle of Advent, we have this colored reminder that we’re supposed to celebrate our period of waiting. We rejoice in it…Really?
“Waiting is soooo fun!” said no one, ever.
Waiting is hard. No matter what it’s for, it’s hard. Waiting in traffic, in grocery lines, for the next Christopher Nolan movie to come out, for the next book in our favorite series, for a better job, for our vocation — you name it.
So what’s the Church trying to tell us by asking us to rejoice in waiting?
In my own life, I’ve come to some pretty life-changing realizations about this:
1. Everything has already been given to us.
We all base our happiness on our circumstances, but I cannot tell you enough how much you need to let this truth sink in. Everything we have, here and now, both in who we are and in our external circumstances — every single thing we could possibly need — has already been given. Mysteriously, there is something more waiting to come.
2. Joy is independent of circumstances.
It doesn’t always look like the “happy” emotion; that’s not what joy is. Joy is having something to hold on to, something that gives us life and gets us up in the morning. It’s the thing we put our hope in. It’s the deep, life-changing knowledge that we are loved. And that’s the only thing that matters.
Pope Francis said it well: “To be happy is good, yet joy is something more. It’s another thing, something which does not depend on external motivations, or on passing issues: it is more profound. It is a gift. To be ‘happy at all moments, at all cost,’ can at the end turn into superficiality and shallowness. This leaves us without Christian wisdom, which makes us dumb, naïve, right? All is joy…no. Joy is something else; it is a gift from the Lord.”
3. Waiting, gratitude and joy are all linked.
While we wait, we often find that it’s really hard to be joyful in it. The practical way to work through that is to practice gratitude — because when we put gratitude into action, we find that our joy increases. Of course, we should be grateful all the time. But while waiting, take this time to be more intentional about having a grateful attitude. You’ll probably find yourself smiling more.
4. Joy is something we actually have to fight for.
The Irish band Rend Collective created a video about this entire idea. The band’s leader explains, “Joy is a spiritual discipline. We as a people are much more inclined toward negativity and cynicism. We don’t find it easy or natural to pursue joy. And that’s why God in His Word actually command us to celebrate. We come by a Gospel worth celebrating before a celebrating king. We need to get down to the serious business of joy. We must wrestle for our blessing. We must fight for our joy.”
I love the Bible verse, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Heb 13:15). It validates the fact that joy and gratitude are actually a sacrifice to God — because it is hard. But it’s worth it.
This Advent, I encourage you to not only pray with these truths so they sink in, but to put these things into practice. Start a gratitude journal. Remember on hard days that you are loved, and that you have been given everything. Rejoice in the wait.