Sermon Text: Pink Candle
I do not miss our old church Advent wreath here at St. Mark’s.
Not that it wasn’t gorgeous! For 30 years, our church had a lovely Advent wreath. But here’s the thing: It hung on a chain from the top rafters. And someone had to go up an extension ladder to the peak of this roof and hang it.
That someone was me. And I have to tell you the truth: I’m pretty scared of heights. But I did it. Every year I did it. Partly it was because I didn’t want anyone else going up there. But mostly it was because I wanted to conquer my fear.
I did not conquer my fear. I controlled it, but I didn’t conquer it.
Now, I had promised my wife that I would never hang the Advent wreath unless someone was watching me from the floor. So a couple of years ago, the one who watched me from the floor was the spouse of a vestry member. And she said, “That’s it! You’re too old to do that any more! I’m telling!”
Apart from the old age reference, for a second there I thought I was back in elementary school. She TOLD on me! So the Vestry chose to get a beautiful new Advent wreath, using Memorial Funds. And this wreath is on the floor!
I really love Advent wreaths. When I was a little boy, it was an important December ritual in my family. Every Sunday night, we’d light the right number of Advent candles and say a couple of prayers and sing Christmas hymns with my dad playing piano. It’s one of my treasured childhood memories.
In the past, most Advent wreaths used purple candles. But blue for Advent has now become popular. Blue is the color most often associated with the Virgin Mary. Advent is the time we think about Mary of Nazareth expecting the birth of her baby boy. So blue has become our Advent color.
But the color of the candle for the third Sunday of Advent is pink. That’s the extra special candle for Mary, the mother of Jesus. We just recited together the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat. This is Mary’s Song. Her song celebrates the fierce love of God. It’s the song of God’s care for the least, the little, and the lowly.
That’s what Mary sings. God turns power itself upside-down. God raises up the underdogs. God feeds, God helps, God blesses. That’s what Mary sings. And the pink candle is hers.
Now, in a way, my daughter is named for her. We chose the name Marie for my daughter, which is the French version of the name Mary. We thought it would go well with our French last name, and my grandmother’s name was Marie.
Because of her disability, my Marie has taught me a great deal about love and suffering. Mary the mother of Jesus knew all about love and suffering.
My Marie used to love candles. Even as a little girl, she loved to walk into a candle store and sniff the candles. She called it “aromatherapy” (in spite of her disabilities, she always had a great vocabulary). She loved candles.
And she loves her mom, too. One time, her group home staff let her pick out a gift for her mom.
Marie picked out a pink candle which was scented like a rose. She gave it to her mom. They loved to light it together. They loved to sniff it together. They loved to share it. They called this pink candle “the love candle.” It was a treasure in our home as long as it lasted. The love candle.
So when I see the pink candle on an Advent wreath, I think of it as the love candle. It’s Marie’s candle....it’s Mary’s candle.
Now, in the early years of the church, they were trying to figure out exactly who this Jesus was. And while they did that, they were also trying to figure out who Mary was. And they decided that in some mysterious way Jesus was divine.
Well, what does that say about his mother? After all, she bore him in her womb for nine months. So they decided to give her a title. They called her “Theotokos.” It’s the Greek term for “God-bearer.” Mary was the mother who carried this divine Child in her own body. Mary was the mother who held this Child in her arms. Mary was the first to love this Child and teach him to love.
“Theotokos” may sound like a dry and ancient theological title. But it says something amazing. It says that God had a mommy. Christianity says that the love of God is like the love of a mother holding her child. God holds you like Mary held Jesus — in loving, maternal arms. This is the love celebrated during Advent and Christmas.
Now, I know some of us here today are pretty grizzled. I am no child any more. But the little boy I once was is still inside me somewhere. The baby boy held in the loving arms of MaryEllen Giroux is still part of me.
And it’s true for you, too. The child you were, the baby you were, is still part of you. And you are still held in the loving, motherly arms of God. You are held. You are cherished. You are loved by the God who is both Father and Mother, the God who created you out of love, the God who will never let you go.
Like a candle, you are light.
You shine in the darkness.
You are a sign of hope.
And it’s all because of the love of God.
Maybe we are not a bonfire.
Maybe we don’t spread all that much light or heat.
But we can be candles.
So be a candle.
Spread a little light and warmth because of God’s flame in you.
Remember the pink candle of the third Sunday of Advent.
A pink candle is a silent and sacred sign.
It’s the love candle.
Be a candle.