If you’ve ever seen an Advent wreath you’ll notice that they usually have one pink candle.
The tradition of an Advent wreath is to light one candle each of the four weeks of Advent – and the candle we light each week reflects the liturgical colour of the preceding Sunday. While either purple or blue candles make up three of the four candles in the set - there is a pink candle for the third Sunday in Advent.
Now, dignified churchy folks will tell you that that third candle – the candle for Advent three - is ‘rose’ or even ‘dusty rose’ in colour.
But don’t listen to them. It’s just plain pink.
Pink in all its joyous, glittery, campy essence.
Now, there are actually two ‘pink’ Sundays in the whole liturgical year. And for the third Sunday in Advent, as well as the fourth Sunday in Lent, the reason for pink is similar.
The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday; which gets its name from the old ‘introit’ (opening part of the worship) – which begins with the chanted Latin Words: Gaudete in Domino semper; meaning “Rejoice in the Lord always” (derived from Philippians 4, BTW).
In Lent, the ‘pink’ Sunday is called “Laetare” Sunday; which also takes its name from the Latin in the introit; Laetare Jerusalem which means “Rejoice Jerusalem”.
Historically, Advent and Lent have both been considered ‘penitential’ seasons; that is, they are times when we Jesus-people focus on prayer, surrender, confession and life-change (repentance). That’s why they’re associated with fasting and other acts of surrender.
But one thing I’ve learned is that the Christian liturgical calendar always has queer counter-points to even its most serious and solemn times.
And the point here is that even in those seasons, there is room for joy!
Which is where the beautiful and campy pink comes in.
For Gaudate (same root word as ‘gaudy’, by the way) is a time when we can let loose a little, bring out some pre-emptive Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee or Joy to the World (either the hymn - or the 70’s rock classic “joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea / joy to you and me” – yes we’ve done that in the past at AbbeyChurch, albiet with a few lyric changes)!
It’s a time when clergy can don we now our gay apparal - pink vestments - and camp it out a bit. And the rest of us can sneak in a guilty pleasure or two!
If you ask me – it is one of the queerest and more transgressive Sundays of the year.
Many of you will know that I have eclectic tastes in music; but whether it’s the sheer joy of Aretha or Mahalia or Sister Rosetta doing their powerful African-American gospel - or maybe it’s some sweaty house music from queer, latina and/or black dance scenes of bygone decades - or maybe it’s an awe-inducing powerful 19th century hymn belted out on the 3 manual pipe organ – there is room in our communities of resistance for joy!
I mean - heck, we’re halfway through this season with all the heavy apocalyptic readings and calls to repentance and seemingly endless waiting and preparing.
So, friends, let’s take a bit of a breath. Dance a bit.
Sure, though this faith of ours is rightfully serious stuff, let’s not take it too seriously.
For Jesus liked a good party. And though there are all too many sins and sorrows which grow all around and within us – God comes to make God’s blessings show. There is grace. There is goodness. There is reason for joy.
And Gaudete is a reminder that even though we’re called to slow down, look inward and turn our lives around - every Sunday is a mini-feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And, if you ask me, there’s always room for joy and fun and celebration in that.
So, rejoice, beloved community – we have good reason to rejoice.
Again, I say – rejoice!