In our candles of advent series, we’ve analyzed the symbolic importance of the five candles present on or inside the advent wreath, often featured in churches on Sunday. In past weeks, we’ve covered the history of the candles and wreath as well as the candle of peace and the candle of hope.
For this week, we’ll cover the third candle known as the candle of joy. Instead of the previous two weeks of purple or violet candles, this week the color of the candle will be different: it’s pink. As a reminder, three candles are purple, one is pink, and the one in the center is white.
Churches will light one candle a week, starting the first week of December, and will light the white candle in the center on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
What Is the Candle of Joy?
Otherwise known as the Shepherd Candle, this candle reflects the joy that comes through Jesus’ arrival, and through the salvation he has gifted us.
Christians may wonder why the church decided to make this particular candle a different color than the others.
Although Christians have presented several reasons for the pinkish nature of the candle, from a tradition where priests would wear pink vestments to parents eagerly awaiting the joy of a child’s arrival by painting the room pink, the rosy candle has its roots in something known as Gaudete Sunday.
During this third week of advent, this Sunday celebrates the passage Philippians 4:4-5, its verses extolling readers to “rejoice” for “indeed the Lord is near.”
In other words, this week celebrates the joy of Christ’s coming to earth.
We should also note that not every church uses a pink candle to represent this day. Some will use a violet one, just like all the others. Violet tends to have a somber nature, and it also reflects royalty, acknowledging Jesus’ kingship.
No matter what color of candle a church displays on that third Sunday, churches want to highlight the importance of joy in advent season. During a time where depression is at an all-time high and people seem to be in the most despair, this candle offers a bright light during a dark time.
It is also known as the Shepherd Candle to highlight the joy the shepherds experienced when they received the good news about Christ’s birth (Luke 2:8-20). During the middle of the night, the darkest time, the shepherds encountered angels.
What Does the Bible Say about Joy?
Before we dive into the numerous verses that talk about joy, we have to establish an understanding of biblical joy. It goes far beyond momentary happiness. Like the happiness a child might experience when they unwrap a gift that they’d hoped for on Christmas day.
It is an extreme happiness that cannot be deterred by present circumstances. This type of joy comes from God alone. Joy can often be experienced when a Christian thinks about salvation, eternal life, or Jesus.
It is an eager anticipation about wonderful things to come. The shepherds experienced this as they ran to Bethlehem to see Jesus.
With the definition of joy established, let’s dive into what Scripture says about joy:
- God fills us with joy (Romans 15:13). We cannot will ourselves to experience joy. It comes from God alone.
- It’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We experience more joy when we spend time with God. We have to keep in mind that joy only comes from God, but when we spend more time with him, we allow him to fill us with it.
- No one can take joy from us (John 16:22). Given to us by God himself, no one has the ability to rob us of our joy. No matter what circumstances we encounter, no one can take this away.
- Joy rests in things from God such as salvation and righteousness (Psalm 51:12).
Depending on the translation, joy appears more than 100 times in the Bible.
Why Does This Matter?
This matters because, while we wait for Christ to come again, we don’t have to despair. God has given us a joy that no one can take away. No matter what happens in this dark world, we can experience light.
We experience difficulties differently than the world. We have light even in the darkest moments.
Joy is essential to the Christian experience. We cannot get far without it, and we need it as we, like the shepherds, anticipate the coming of our Savior.
Advent Wreath Prayer Week 3 — Joy
This third week of Advent, let us remember that the good news of Jesus’ birth has the power to bring us great joy this Christmas season. Our joy isn’t dependent on what is going on in our life, in our world, or the people that we are with. It doesn’t depend on the gifts we give or the gifts we find under the tree. No earthly thing can ever give us complete joy. Our joy comes from you. That joy that flooded the hearts of the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the hosts of heaven, and Mary and Joseph is the joy that still has the power to overwhelm our hearts with rejoicing.
Those who gathered around the new baby were blessed because they believed that you had fulfilled your promises. Mary and Joseph believed and were able to feel the joy of holding baby Jesus in their arms. The shepherds and wise men believed the angles and the signs and experienced the great gladness of worshipping their Messiah.
Those who knew him and recognized him were overjoyed at the coming of Jesus. They saw the prophecies fulfilled and their fear was replaced with happiness as they gazed on the face of the one who would be their Savior. They trusted in your promises and their hearts were filled with gladness as they watched your loving-kindness manifested in the face of a tiny baby in a lowly manger.
Father, you offer that same joy to us now if we know you and recognize Jesus as our Savior and Lord. You gave us a reason to celebrate when you gave us the unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ. You came to dwell among us. You went to Calvary’s cross for us. You overcame death and rose from the dead for us. You forgive our sins and give us eternal life when we believe in you.
Our joy doesn’t come from our jobs, our family, our relationships, our finances, or our success. Our joy doesn’t come from what we have on earth or who we are with. Our joy is a gift. It is the gift that you gave us that first Christmas in Jesus Christ. Our joy is encompassed in our Savior, King Jesus. Flood our heart with joy this Advent season as we reflect on the good news of Jesus’ birth. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Maya23K
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,100 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
This article is part of our larger Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ!
What Is Advent: Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition
What Is an Advent Wreath?
Advent Week 1: The Candle of Hope
Advent Week 2: The Candle of Peace
Advent Week 3: The Candle of Joy
Advent Week 4: The Candle of Love
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