In the traditional Advent candle arrangement, we find five candles. Four of them represent qualities; hope, peace, love, and joy. The fifth is a white candle that sits between them. It represents Christ Himself; the One who makes them possible.
So, on this fourth week of Advent, we come to the Candle of Joy.
A friend of mine (Dr. Mark Krause) wrote this morning on the “Melancholy of Christmas.” For all the “good news of glad tidings” that the angels (and season) announce, it often arrives in the context of heartache and sorrow. Many of us face bereavement; our first Christmas without a loved one. Others face fractured family situations. Others have been surprised by bad news at work, or from a doctor’s office in recent times. Loneliness begins to settle afresh on some of us.
Joy to the world, indeed. But joy in our own personal worlds?
Could we burn the Candle of Joy with integrity? Brokenness, sadness, grief, and pain seem like far more constant companions in life than joy.
Of course, the source of our joy can never be our circumstances. We know that; though it’s hard to rise above that in dark times. And pastors and scholars remind us periodically that joy is not the same as happiness. Joy dwells in the depths, while happiness bubbles along the surface. All very true.
But is there joy for us all this Christmas?
Simply — yes.
Biblical joy is grounded in Christ, not in our circumstances. But, importantly, it is also grounded in eternity, not this moment. Joy defines our confidence that one day Christ will wipe away every tear from our eyes; that this “momentary light affliction is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed”; that the Father will one day “turn our mourning into dancing.” Joy comes when we hear that divine whisper to our souls: “Emmanuel, God is with us.”
The Candle of Joy is not for the faint-hearted, the short-sighted, or those who would live in fantasy or denial. It beckons us to face reality and ask tough questions, to express raw emotions and real pain. It also affirms that these things will pass, we are not alone, eternity will be different, and the Presence of the incarnate Son makes a difference.
May this final week of Advent be filled with hope, peace, love, and joy for each of you. Blessings this Christmas. I am honored by your company on this Journey.
Because of Grace.