Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent's Purple Joy

Well, I know that Brother Maynard's Advent Wreath has a pink candle for this week, but some hold out for four purple candles and the one white candle... and that's what The Abbess is doing, as well. Not just to be contrary, or to try to stay consistent with my purple theme. But because the only way to have true joy in this world is to see it from the purple perspective. [For those of you who might not have been reading from the beginning, this post from October will give you a quick idea of what I mean by "purple perspective."]

We've talked about purple hope and purple peace as things for which we long while in the midst of intense periods of waiting and expectancy...that melancholy part of Advent. But we are now more than half way through Advent, and the time to finally celebrate the Christ Event is a mere eight days away. There is a blush of joy peaking through....

But let's have a look at what the Word has to say about joy. It is another of those words that I believe most people say so often that they understand vaguely what it means, but if you ask them to define it, they give you a blank look... the kind you get when you ask them to define glory or happiness. I find that especially interesting, because the words that are used to define joy have both an element of glory and happiness. Glory is related in that joy brings a quality of shining or brightness to a happiness, a deep sense of contentment, that comes as a benefit from God--one that is frequently unlooked for or unexpected.

This always makes me think of eucatastrophe--Tolkien's words for the sudden and unexpected turn from disaster to success. This joy is a shining moment of inexplicable happiness snatched from certain black despair. It is a powerful word that plumbs the depths of this concept of joy and calls us to a perspective of expectancy. At all times, and in all circumstances, we must live in expectancy that God's glory (his visible presence) will break through and shine on us--if we will open our hearts and eyes and ears, living with hope and in peace with God and others.

And so the writer of Hebrews 12:2 tells us of this joy. The thought of this future joy that inspired Christ on the road to glory that led to the cross. And James (1:2) exhorts us to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials of many kinds, so that we may become mature and complete. A joy that Paul described (2 Cor 7:4) as existing in the midst of all his troubles. The indescribable joy that a mother feels at the birth of a child.

This is purple joy, friends. Joy that blazes forth from darkness as a reminder of God's glory evident in and through us, available at all times and in all circumstances. After four hundred years of darkness, the angels announce with joy that Christ, the Savior, is finally born! This announcement was not made to the High Priest, but to lowly shepherds--whose testimony would not be acceptable in court! This Jesus, the True Light giving light to all, was coming into this world.

Tolkien believed that the birth of Jesus was the eucastrophe of human history. And so it was. So sudden and unlooked for, so different from what was expected, that those who expected to have the inside scoop were left clueless. And the blinking, blinding happiness of a group of poor shepherds gave wings to their feet and boldness to their tongues as they were the first witnesses God called to testify to Christ's birth.

Joy is purple because those who live by faith and hope and peace walk a difficult path... very unlike those who live by sight and certainty and power. This difficult path focuses their perceptions, perspectives and priorities and tunes them into God's frequency, as it were, so that they are first to pick up the Spirit's broadcast.

Joy is purple because it comes to those who are humble in heart and suffering in circumstance, yet still open to hear and obey the Word of the Lord when it is delivered by his varied and sundry messengers. It is a paradox, this joy, because it cannot be sought or caught or kept. It must be allowed to fall with the rain of providence (after which we witness the spectacular rainbow) and flow with the river of contentment (where we at times stand in awe at the majesty of rapids and waterfalls)... but most of all, joy must be received.

Joy is a gift, an unexpected benefit that comes from God. No gift is of any benefit, however, if it is not received...and no gift is more gratefully received than purple joy.

The Abbess, founder of this small Order of the Purple Martyrdom, bids you open your arms to receive Advent's good news of great Joy.

Be blessed.


Eric G. said...


Well, pink candle at our house, but, there is always next year...

Great post, thanks..

Eric G.

AbiSomeone said...

Hmm...yes, next year! ;^)

Blessings, Eric!

sonja said...

I'm finally getting caught up on my reading, but I'm firmly convinced that all things happen on time. I wouldn't have gotten the right things out of this had I read it "on time." So, my behindness is working out. Thanks for these words of great wisdom, Abi ...

Now you'll have us all saying, "Next year, purple." instead of "Next year in Jerusalem." Everyone will think we're a strange Jewish sect ... hmmm ... maybe we are??

AbiSomeone said...

Ha! Yes, "next year, purple...." Love it! We are a strange sect, indeed ;^)

I am so glad that these words were timely in your world, Sonja, and that I have, in my small way, been able to share your burden through them.

Your comment is a gift of joy that I gladly receive, sister.

Be blessed.