Imagine for a moment that you have come home one Sunday from a day of worship. It was a good day…no, it was a GREAT day. There were a couple of baptisms, the choir special really hit home, the sermon was powerful, and you just led perhaps your best Sunday school or small group session that you have ever led. The people in your group were active, listening, had great questions, and one even prayed to accept Christ. WHEW!!!!!!!! What a genuinely good day. So, about the time you hang up your coat, there is a knock on the door. When you open the door, it’s the local police department. Before you know what is happening, you are in the back of a cruiser, headed down town to be locked away. Your crime???? Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Does this sound far fetched? It’s not really. If you ever have the chance to read David Platt’s book, Radical, I highly recommend it. One of the things that David opens the book with is a section called “Puddles of Tears.” I want to give you an excerpt from that section in an attempt to show you just how real this scenario I just suggested is:
“They had gathered in secret. They had intentionally come to this place at different times throughout the morning so as not to draw attention to the meeting that was occurring. They lived in a country in Asia where it is illegal for them to gather like this. If caught, they could lose their land, their jobs, their families, or their lives.”
This section of the book continues with David relaying what is happening in the meeting. The people who had gathered were Christian leaders, Pastors of secret churches in this Asian country. One by one, each Pastor or leader relayed the struggles they were facing in their congregations. They decided they need to pray and, on their knees, they went before God. David describes what happens next like this:
“Their prayers were marked less by grandiose theological language and more by heartfelt praise and pleading.”
“O God, thank you for loving us.”
O God, we need you.”
Jesus, we give our lives to you and for you.”
Jesus, we trust in you.”
These people, persecuted for what they believed, openly praised Jesus and was genuinely rejoicing God for the gifts and blessings they had received. For me, this is a perfect example of pure joy, even in the midst of trial and hardships.
Tonight, we look at the third candle in the advent wreath, the candle of JOY. I hope that each of you had a worshipful Sunday today and those of you who have advent wreath lightings in your service, I hope this has helped you understand it a little better. I know that I have a much better grasp on it after all of the research I have done writing this. The third Sunday of advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Now, Gaudete (pronounced Gaw-Deh-Tay) is the Latin word for “Rejoice.” The third Sunday is when we light the pink or the rose candle. This candle symbolizes the half way point of the coming of the Savior, therefore the pink candles represents a lighter shade of the purple as the light comes closer and closer to this world. Proverbs 4:18 says, “But, the path of the righteous is like light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” Like the first light of day as the sky gets brighter and brighter, the light of Jesus gets closer and closer as Christmas approaches. We celebrate the joy of the coming Savior and the proclamations that led to His birth, the proclamation about John the Baptist, and the proclamation of the angels about the coming Christ. We have so many reason to celebrate and be joyful.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he exclaims:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
I consider Paul an authority on true joy. You see, this letter was written to the church at Philppi while Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel (sound familiar- see the above story if you forgot). In fact the central theme of this letter is joy. Paul is thanking them for financial support that the church has sent him through Epaphroditus. This is a common occurrence from this church. However, Paul says something in the fourth chapter that really outlines true joy, and that is the idea of contentment. Paul tells them that he has learned to be content with a little or a lot. How has he mastered such a difficult task? Paul understands that true joy comes from the blessing that God has sent through His son Jesus Christ. Do we know the joy of true contentment? Is Christ enough in our lives? If not, then there are only two possibilities: 1) You don’t know Christ as your Lord and Savior, or 2) Christ is not the center of your life. Either problem requires us to place Christ at the center of our lives and understand that He is enough.
What better way to spend the advent season than being thankful for the blessings in our lives and truly rejoicing in the Lord for those blessings, especially the birth of our Savior. We rejoice when we have plenty, we rejoice when we have little, because all we need is the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having faith in that, will help us have faith that God will take care of the rest.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
Angie Mosteller, http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1432.
David Platt, Radical Multnomah Books, 2010 (pages 4-5: excerpted)