I have a dear friend who is not Catholic and who didn't really know any Catholics until she encountered my husband and I after moving north from West Virginia. So, our strange little Catholic customs like fasting, fish on Friday, and advent wreaths were a complete novelty to her.
Her husband worked at least two jobs almost all the time, so often she would end up at our house for Sunday dinner. One Sunday, she showed up with a bucket of chicken and a chocolate cake mix and announced that she was having dinner with us.
My husband, always up for company, said, "Oh, wonderful! You can celebrate Gaudete Sunday with us!"
"The huh-what?" she laughed.
"Well, it's the day we light the rose colored candle on the advent wreath," I explained.
"Oh, Light the Pink Candle Sunday! Oh goody! Can I light it?" her whole face lit up with excitement.
Her ready embrace of the joy of lighting the rose colored candle on Gaudete Sunday stays with me today and inspires me. Each year, though she has moved away, I think of her as I light the candles on our wreath and in a special way on Gaudete Sunday. And chicken and chocolate cake have become the traditional dinner, too.
It is sad to realize that I have let Advent wreaths become so commonplace for me that I forget their significance. I forget the rich symbolism in the light, the candles offering themselves as a prayer, the greenery formed into a circle promising everlasting life and the colors symbolizing Jesus' royalty.
I forget the joy and the hope, especially this year, with so many sad things going on in our world. But, there is reason to hope. There is reason to be joyful. The rose colored candle tells us that dawn is coming and there is an end to the darkness that blankets this world.
You see, we know the ending. God wins.