This coming Sunday is the Third Sunday in Advent. Over the years, churches have developed rituals for this season and one of them is lighting the candles on the Advent wreath. Each week has come to have a theme. The first two are Hope and Peace. The third week is Joy, when the candle that is lit is a shade of rose rather than purple. I am busy helping with worship for two congregations at this time and am enjoying the feeling of anticipation as we offer our praise and thanksgiving in words and music, and as we listen to the familiar biblical passages of Advent. These can become refreshingly new again as we travel with them and our companions towards Christmas.
The idea of joy is one I relate to very strongly now, and I have a strong need to celebrate that joy. Today, I am particularly joyful because I received good news about my health. To celebrate, I stopped for lunch at one of my favorite Indianapolis restaurants, Sawasdee, which offers delicious Thai cuisine. Receiving such good news from my doc earlier, (I’m still in remission), I wanted to celebrate, not minding at all that I was alone for Sawasdee holds special joyful memories. When I was ordained several years ago, we held my wonderful celebration dinner there on a Sunday night when friends and family took over the entire place. All the details were taken care of with a great deal of consideration and delight.
I have no shortage of joys right now! Each year, exactly two weeks before Christmas, deep in Advent, I celebrate my birthday. This year I will turn 65 on December 11th, definitely a milestone. While I am optimistic by nature, I had no guarantee that I would be alive and healthy on this special birthday. And we have plans to visit our kids in Toronto, go with them to the Caribbean (yes, I can scuba dive again), visit Mike’s brother and our sister-in-law in Hungary, go to Munich and Vienna, then wind up in Jerusalem to have a joyous reunion with our daughter and family in April around Easter and Passover. The seasons of faith are bookends for these particular joys of health and family.
Advent’s four popular themes of hope, peace, joy and love are beautiful concepts for ordering our lives to live well with each other in this world that is unfortunately so full of conflict. I hope you are experiencing in many ways (and I could go on naming my many joys, which are my many blessings) joys in your life that make you feel whole and holy.