As a kid, I never understood why all the Christmas decorations were red and green except the Advent candles. Now don’t get me wrong, as a girl growing up in the 80s, I was a big fan of the pink and purple combo. But for Christmas?
Recently, though, I was doing some digging about Advent, and I discovered that each candle’s color has a specific meaning. In the liturgical calendar, purple symbolizes penitence and repentance, and it’s used for both Lent and Advent. Those three purple candles stand as tall, solemn reminders that this world is broken, that we are broken. Advent, a time of mourning.
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining . . .
But those candles in the wreath don’t remain cloaked in sadness. On Christmas Day, all the purple candles are replaced with white ones. White—the color of joy. Our mourning is over. The Messiah is here!
Joy to the world!
The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
So what about the one stray pink candle in the mix? According to tradition, the pink candle got its start centuries ago when monks were making Advent candles. As they mixed wax for the purple candles, it was almost as if the joy of Christmas couldn’t be contained. The white spilled over into some of the wax, creating the lone pink candle.
And isn’t that what Advent is? Mourning tinged with joy.
In my own life, there’s no doubt about it: sadness can creep into my joy. One minute everything is going great—I’m singing in the shower, dancing in the kitchen, bursting to start a new day. But the sadness can creep in so fast—with a single failure, disappointment, sharp word, or unmet expectation.
But joy? What if joy could creep in too?
Joy is stealthier than sadness, I think. It doesn’t always come with trumpets and fanfare. Sometimes joy sneaks in, more like melted wax. You may not even notice it’s there until you look down and see a rosy hue where there once was a melancholy purple.
That’s how Jesus came too—he who is Joy himself. His incarnation wasn’t brazen; it was quiet, small. But that quietness didn’t diminish the joy. Because joy has the power to seep in and permeate all the mourning, all the sadness.
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Christmas reminds us of one of the best gifts of all: that joy can creep into our sadness too.
It’s as if the third week of Advent is telling us, “Hang on for one more week. Joy will creep in.”
Joy always finds a way to creep in.