“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4). “Sing for joy!” (Isaiah 12).
With these words, ancient biblical voices call us to joy on the third Sunday in Advent.
The Latin term for this week in the season of Advent is “Gaudete” or “Rejoice,” and on this Sunday many churches follow the historic practice of lighting a rose-hued candle of joy instead of the penitential purple or anticipatory blue candles of the other three Sundays.
I have been thinking in recent days that perhaps this Advent we should forego Rejoice Sunday. The world is too weary with violence and pain. Indeed, what manner of rejoicing even rings true as we strike a match and touch its flame to the joy candle on this year’s wreath?
My friend’s 75th birthday celebration made me stop and reconsider my decision to snuff out the joy candle. Party-goers were asked to write my friend a poem or blessing. As I thought about this request, I realized that my friend’s life itself is both blessing and poem, for she has done what she could over her years of living to be kind, not just during the idyllic weeks of quixotic Christmas snow globes, but for the season that is her lifetime, even during times when life was anything but kind to her.
Thinking about my friend’s 75 years of weeks and days of learning by doing how to be a kind and caring human being has made me reconsider the meaning of that rose-hued candle on the Advent wreath. A world weighed down by fear and grief needs gifts of kindness. We may even be desperate for the kind of life-sustaining joy that can be birthed when people decide anew each day to embody God’s “fear not” in the midst of our world’s most fearful realities.
So it is that on the third Sunday in this season of waiting, we add to our Advent fire a flinty, prophetic spark of rejoicing. We say “yes” one more time to Advent’s call to a kind of rejoicing birthed in simple, everyday acts of kindness that persist in the midst of unrelenting bad news. We say “yes” because the story of Jesus calls us to embody unremitting hospitality in the face of inhospitality, radical welcome in the face of rejection, justice-infused love in the face of fear. We say “yes” because the season’s hopeful promises of “goodwill to all” are birthed in a manger of radical kindness.
’Tis the season. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” “Sing for joy.”
’Tis the season
’Tis the season
of peppermint, that is,
refreshing scent of winter
“Come, sit and sip awhile”
or mocha latte with a just a hint of vanilla
hands folded around warm mugs
as spirited steam swirls around
and between us.
Yes, peppermint season
Red bird candies in crinkly cellophane wrappers
placed “just so” in a dish inside the door
or downtown shops
where cinnamon and Christmas
scent the air.
“Yes, please do take one. Enjoy!”
We do. Just one.
one is enough
to savor awhile,
cool sweetness tingling
noses and tongues
until we exhale,
Yes, ’tis the season of cooling candied confections
and extraordinary kindnesses.
Chestnuts roast over open fires.
Hearts grow a little bit larger.
Somebody does want a Charlie in the Box after all.
How fitting, my friend, that you are
a child of the season
For you, too, spice lives with
flavored with delectable
and the promise of a sweetness
for a long winter’s night
to offer “goodwill to all.”
About Jill Crainshaw
Jill Crainshaw is a PCUSA minister and Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She is the author of several books on worship and ministry.