Gaudete! (Rejoice!)

In church this morning we lit the candle of joy. The faithful have arrived at Gaudete Sunday in the Catholic tradition—the Sunday of rejoicing. We rejoice because our preparation is half over—we have arrived at the midway point in our Advent journey. We rejoice because we draw ever nearer to the promise the angel of the Lord made on that hallowed night.
…Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Great joy. As we tend this circlet of light, this is what we await.
In the olden days, the pre-Christian German tribes lit candles as a sign of hope during the long, cold days of winter. These ancient peoples prayed to the god of light to “turn the wheel of the earth” back toward the warming light of the sun.
They did not know who he was. But we do. We have this: good news of great joy.
We light these candles, not to turn the wheel of the earth. For it is our hearts that need the turning. The prophet Jeremiah tells us the heart is deceitful above all things…and isn’t it the truth? Don’t our hearts seek all that shimmers, that great noisy bustle, that crazy excess this season offers?
Don’t’ I worry that the gifts I bring won’t be enough?
I sit in this warm house and listen as wind murmurs against the chimney; I watch through the window as it dances with undressed trees, a few frail snowflakes drift through the waltz. The lights on the Christmas tree wink soft and my boys’ voices drift down the stairs to me—they are lost in some game that only brothers understand.
This moment pulses with light—this point on the wreathe journey flickers and then fans into flame. And I know the real joy of Christmas is not in the manger. It is right here—in this moment and in all the moments he has given us in this resurrected life. 
great wheel
groping, swinging
me around…
back into warmth
away from darkness
and into hope.
light a candle
in my heart for
every moment,  
until the flames
consume all with
the red blood of
your love.
This prose and verse written to share in the HighCalling’s community writing project, Christmas in Verse.
We love Caleb’s The Way of the Light Wreath! We light a candle each evening and read a devotional It helps light a flame for each moment–it helps turn our hearts toward Christ. together.
Thank you to the Catholic resource center for teaching me more about the tradition of the Advent wreath (we Presbyterians are generally shy about these things) and to Deidra for reminding me how to wait in joy.


  1. says

    We are fresh from singing three services – our church Christmas Program.
    Our Pastor told us about the winter solstice and why Dec. 25th was chosen as the day to celebrate the birth of the King of kings. It is the day the earth begins to tilt once again toward the sun – to the light.
    Light and joy – He is all in all.
    This is so lovely Laura. Thank you for adding such joy to my sabbath.

  2. says

    Beautiful…turning our hearts….I’ve certainly been looking for Jesus every day this holiday season. And it is in the seemingly ordinary that we can find the extravagance of joy. I was raised in the Disciples of Christ church and we were big on the Advent wreath…I have never gotten back into it since then. It might be a good thing to look at again…

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