December 11, 2017

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
[1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
Lectionary readings for Sunday, December 17, 2017 - The Third Sunday of Advent

For those churches that have Advent wreaths with one pink (or rose) candle, this coming Sunday is the day that you get to light it. The Advent wreath is one of the traditional symbols for the season. 
For those who may have wondered but were afraid to ask, the large white candle in the center is called the Christ candle and the four candles placed around it - one for each week of Advent - may be all blue, all purple, or three of one color and one pink.  The pink one is lit on the third week and the Christ Candle is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas day, and on each Sunday during the season of Christmas.
Now, why the pink candle? 
In the earliest years of the church the only church season was Lent, the seven weeks prior to Easter.  Lent was a season of fasting and prayer as the church commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus.  The traditional color of banners in the church during this time was a deep purple, signifying royalty, repentance, and suffering.  During Lent the church lit seven candles, one for each week of the solemn season.  However solemn the season, the story of Lent also has a twinge of hope and joy since the death of Christ prefigured the resurrection.  So, on the third Sunday of Lent, the church was encouraged not to fast, but to feast.  In ancient times on this particular Sunday the Pope would honor a citizen with a pink rose, and as time passed the priests wore pink vestments on this day as a reminder of the coming joy.  It is called "Gaudete" Sunday, gaudete being the Latin word for rejoice.
When the season of Advent was instituted the Church viewed it as a mini-Lent, a time for reflection and repentance (thus the purple).  In so doing, the church adopted the first four candles of Lent and changed the third candle of Advent to pink in honor of the Lenten tradition. And that is why we have a pink candle in our Advent Wreaths.
To further heighten the sense of anticipation of Christ's coming during Advent, the church named each candle in the wreath - the first being hope, the second peace, the third joy, and the fourth love. 
(You could have looked all this up by doing a Google search, but I wanted to save you the time.)
You will note in our readings the references to joy or rejoicing:
In Isaiah we read, " I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God. " [Isaiah 61:10]
In Psalm 126, the psalmist sings, " Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. "  [Psalm 126:5]
And we hear one of my favorite phrases in Paul's letter to the Thessalonian Christians in our second reading, which is also cited at the top: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." [I Thessalonians 5:16-18]
Of course, the spirit of rejoicing is with us throughout all of Advent when we sing the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." The lines of the refrain repeat the word, "Rejoice."
And we do have cause to rejoice, despite whatever adverse circumstances may trouble us. The name Emmanuel means, "God with us."
It is because of God with us that through the tears and pain of suffering in this broken world, we can give thanks in all circumstances and proclaim: Rejoice! Rejoice!
This is a week of wandering for me as I will be out of the office for most of it.
Tuesday, I will gather with the rostered ministers of the Southern Conference to worship and have a time of conversation about topics and events in our synod and the wider church.
Tuesday evening, I will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the people of God at Iglesia Luterana La Trinidad in Canton. This evening is special in that La Trinidad was my first call to ministry and the congregation I served for nine years. It is the first congregation in Northeastern Ohio to worship in Spanish. La Trinidad is housed at Zion Lutheran Church on Raff Road in Canton. The service begins at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday, I will be in Angola, Indiana, with the bishops of Region Six. We gather annually in December to bring each other up to date on what is happening in our respective synods and plan for the coming year those ministries that we do collaboratively as a region. I draw strength from my relationship with these colleagues, whom I also consider friends. I thank God for their support and for the work that we do together in mission for Christ and for the wider church.
Thursday evening, I am in Cleveland for the Annual Meeting of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry. LMM is one of the leading social ministry agencies in greater Cleveland. It is unique in that it involves all Lutheran church bodies in carrying out the agency's mission "to promote shalom (peace, well-being, health, harmony, wholeness) and justice (the demands of right relationship in community) through Christian ministry of service and advocacy with those who are oppressed, forgotten and hurting."
Saturday, I will be with the people of God at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Massillon to install their pastor, the Rev. Katie Jacob.
And I will spend the third Sunday of Advent with the people of God at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bellville.
This week and always, may the Spirit of the Lord be upon you, that you may do what is pleasing in God's sight.
+Bishop Abraham Allende