Yesterday was the third Sunday in Advent. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m somewhat new to the church calendar. Last November I spent about 10 minutes in a WalMart with my iPhone six inches from my nose trying to Google exactly what colors our Advent candles should be. After coming up with three different answers, I decided to play my Protestant card and just went with what matched my Christmas decor.
This year we’re being good Minnesota Lutherans with our blue, pink and white candles for Advent. I got distracted from my devotions yesterday morning when John and I spent 15 minutes looking at a cardinal in our backyard and ended up lighting the wrong Advent candle. Growing up the Advent candles were nothing more to me than a countdown to Christmas and I could have sworn that you lit the off-colored candle – in our case, the pink one – on the fourth Sunday.
Good thing the church calendar is cyclical.
As I finally got around to learning this morning, the pink candle symbolizes joy and Mary the Mother of God.
In my Prostestant upbringing, Mary was simply a Jewish peasant girl who was the mother of Jesus. I’ve since learned that Catholic and Orthodox Christians have a much richer and more symbolic understanding of Mary. They call her Theotokos, Mother of God, God-bearer. She is the symbol of humanity itself, fallen but willingly entering into a restored relationship with God through her “yes” to the angel’s proclamation that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Evangelical Christians talk a lot about inviting Jesus into our hearts. Mary was the first to do this — and she invited Jesus not just into her heart, but also into her physical body. By bearing in her womb the Son of God, she made possible the incarnation and thus, later, the crucifixion and resurrection. In so doing, she turns the mourning of our fallenness into the rejoicing of our redemption. It is God who does these great things, to be sure, as Mary herself proclaims, but how great a God we serve, that he would allow us, invite us, long for us to participate in his redeeming work in the world…Like Mary, we are to wait actively, joyfully and expectantly for the new life that has been and will be born into the world. And also like Mary, we are to be agents of this birthing. We are to bring the Light of the world into the world.
The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, pp. 25-26.