December 17, 2014

Reblogged from: Matt Rawle

Earlier this week a couple of folks emailed me asking about the order of our Advent candles–Peace, Hope, Love, and Joy. One member noticed that we had been lighting the candles using a different order than the traditional church–Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. I will say it’s never a bad day in the kingdom when someone recognizes liturgical details! Some days it makes sense for Peace to precede Hope. Hope is a luxury war cannot afford. Other days it makes sense for Hope to come before Peace because it is difficult to imagine an end to violence unless our hopeful imagination offers a new story. Regardless if our hope gives birth to peace or our peace paves the way for hope, the Advent season moves through Love and points to Joy.

Joy is not about being happy. For many, this time of year is quite sad. Memories of loss and hardship seem amplified through the ringing sleigh bells and twinkling lights. Christmas is a time when the good often seems better and the bad seems terribly worse. This is why our Advent expectation points us to Joy. Joy goes beyond being happy or sad. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and hate you. Leap for joy on that day for great is your reward” (Luke 6:22). The only other time in Luke where “Leap for joy” occurs is when John the Baptist, one who knew persecution, leaped inside Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Persecution certainly doesn’t lead to happiness, but it does lead to Joy.

Joy is an expression of Passion, a suffering love. Joy is the miracle of assurance that no matter what life offers, be it blessing or hardship, God is with us and we are not alone! Joy remains through emotion’s fading much like God’s eternal love for us is steadfast through good and bad. So this Sunday we will light the candle of Joy to remind us that when God was born in the person of Jesus the angels sang “Rejoice! Rejoice!” for God’s love remains steadfast forever.