Today, the third Sunday of Advent, the pink candle in the Advent wreath is lit. It represents joy. It stands amongst the purple candles as a reminder that even in a season of expectation and preparation joy can burst forth.
A few weeks ago, as the early morning darkness turned to light, Andy and I were treated to the dance of the turkey vultures. It happens only once or twice a year. Our garden must be on their flight path and they roost for the night in our tall pine trees. We are unaware of their presence until dawn breaks then suddenly two or three appear, followed by another small group, then another and another, perhaps thirty in all. Then they dance, they loop, they twist, they glide and soar on the thermals. It is a display of pure joy. An early morning dance that we count a privilege to watch. It lasts, perhaps, fifteen minutes followed by an odd few stragglers. Then they are gone.
As I ponder the lectionary readings and reflect on this day where joy is the focus I am reminded of the dance of the turkey vultures. For me, it captured joy. Joy often breaks in unexpectedly as darkness turns to light. It is a moment, an instance in time, captured by an intensity of well-being and happiness that can only be described of as joy.
The readings today encapsulate that feeling of joy. The texts include the reading of the Magnificat which is an account of the wonderful meeting of Elisabeth and Mary (Luke 1: 39-56).
As Elisabeth hears Mary greet her on arrival, she feels the quickening of her baby. She acknowledges it with those well-known words, “the child in my womb leaped for joy.” This is followed by Mary’s rejoinder, “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour.” It is a moment of joy for both women. Although, the breaking in of joy was a moment in time as the baby danced in the womb, the impact was huge in the lives of both women. It brought forth an outpouring of praise. I’m sure the experience remained with both women for a lifetime.
Joy always seems to elicit a response in others. As we watched the dance of the turkey vultures we, in turn, shared their joy. As Mary arrived it evoked a joyous response from Elisabeth, which in turn, brought forth a further response from Mary. Joy seems to bring forth more joy.
During this third Sunday in Advent, and in the approaching Christmas season, I hope many will be amazed by joy. I hope there will be moments to treasure. I hope the privilege of those experiences will bring deep and lasting enjoyment. It may only be a moment in time, a fleeting happening, yet the memory is precious. Joy came, and because of it, life is a little richer.
(Photo: North-East Ithaca, JPF)