Happy Advent! This week we enter the third week of Advent, which means it is the week of the pink Advent candle. In the Catholic church we call this Guadete Sunday, which means rejoice.
Just last week, our family sat gathered around our dinner table with the Advent wreath nestled in the center. All five of us settled in before we began our ritual of lighting the Advent candles before our meal. This year, it was Abby’s turn to light the candles during the second week of Advent. Abby picked up the lighter and began to light the candles, as she did Mary, our youngest, began grumbling that it was not her turn to light the candles yet. As the rotation went this year, the third week of Advent was her assigned week to light the candles. For a nine year old, waiting for the third week of Advent felt like an eternity!
We assured Mary her turn would be coming very soon. We also reminded her that not only did she get to light the candles all week, but she also would get to light the pink candle. Mary’s eyes suddenly filled with tears in that way children do sometimes when it’s hard for them to wait, and then desperately cried out, “But mom, why can’t it be time now! I need the pink candle now!”
Her words stunned me to a silence. I sat for a moment gazing at her little face lit with the glow of two Advent candles. A face I love so dearly. A little face that this past year experienced life-changing grief as she lost someone near to her by suicide. My heart ached with the memories of holding her trembling body this past year as she asked me time and time again trying to make sense of this tragic loss in our lives, “Why does death have to be a thing? Why does grief have to be a thing?” I bit the inside of my lip hard to keep the visceral cry from escaping my mouth. My momma heart ached knowing the longing of her words captured the longing of her grieving heart. She needed that pink candle now. Not only in that child-like way of wanting it to be her turn, but in the deeper way of believing that what the pink candle symbolized is possible for her again.
Her words resonated with my own longing to experience joy again. Her words captured the truth that every one of us around that table yearned for after this past year. We need to believe that there is something other than the darkness of grief in our lives. In truth, we, too, need that pink candle now.
But don’t we all? Mary’s words are our shared Advent longing that we experience at different seasons of our lives. It is that longing we feel when we are living in an “in between” what was and what yet will be. It is the longing that we know people, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, experienced as they ached for a child, and suddenly discover the possibility of new life when Elizabeth becomes pregnant. They waited in the “in between” of what they were experiencing and what yet would be. Mother Mary and Joseph, too, waited in that longing of the “in between” of what was and what yet will be as the promise of Jesus’ birth came to fruition.
My little Mary’s longing for the pink candle now is our longing. We long for the promise of joy to be fulfilled. We long to see, to know, to understand, and to feel the promise that pink candle holds. We long to know the source of our joy – Jesus. We long to know that promise of Emmanuel, God is with us.
That night, I heard my daughter’s longing and watched the light dance on Mary’s face yearning for the hope we all do. We want the pink candle now.
And what’s truly the most incredible miracle we experience is that the pink candle does come. Since sitting across from Mary that night, Jesus reminded me of the multitude of ways he came to our family this past year in one of the hardest years of our lives. Our Advent longing was answered again. Jesus came. Through people. Through prayer. Through the love and strength of our family of five. That pink candle’s gift of joy showed up in our lives in small, surprising and unexpected ways. Each time offering small glimmers of hope during the darkness of grief.
This week as we continue our season honoring the Advent longing in all of us, may we be given the gift of faith to believe that the pink candle of joy will come in our lives. This is a promise we can cling to because Christ came to us, Christ still comes to us now, and Christ will come to us again.
Know of my prayers for all of you as we long together for the pink candle now!
Photo by Thays Orrico on Unsplash