“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
December 13, the Third Sunday in Advent in 2020, is also celebrated as the Feast of Saint Lucy. I’m all up for celebrating Lucy since her name means “Light,” and our Gospel lesson for this Sunday (John 1:6-8, 19-28) tells us that John the Baptist came to testify to the light. This is also that fun, “pink candle” Sunday called Gaudete or “Rejoice” Sunday. For the past two Sundays we’ve been anxiously awaiting Jesus to show up, but on Advent Three we get to jazz it up a little and just be happy knowing he’s on his way. In some churches they not only light a pink candle, but the paraments on the altar and the pastor’s vestments are also pink.
(Of course, since the City of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 restrictions have effectively shut down public worship at Faith, it really doesn’t matter what I wear this Sunday, does it?)
So why the pink candle and the rejoicing? Both Lucy and John the Baptist were martyrs, a word which literally means “witness.” Our job as Christians, this Sunday and every day—pandemic or no pandemic—is to be witnesses to the light of Christ. If we are faithful and believe that God has all of this in hand, we can rejoice even in the crappiest of times. Before our current Western calendar was set, December 13th had been observed as the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. In a spirit of defiant joy, Christians would light candles and sing, knowing that the True Light was already in this dark world, the light of Jesus who loves us, died for us, and is always with us.