The third week of advent lights the candle of ‘Joy.’ I didn’t know it.. but I must have foresaw (is that even a word?) what was going to happen this past Sunday. Like I said in an earlier post, I haven’t truly thought about the Advent season since I was a child. While I love to celebrate the holiday season, thinking about Christmas hasn’t been on the forefront of my mind unfortunately — I blame it on working every year on Christmas for the last few years. So, this Sunday after a long night on call I stumbled out of bed late and decided to drive to church. I hadn’t been able to go the last few Sundays of advent because of work .. and when I showed up, I was seated in the pew next to my good friend and was approached by our pastor — ‘Do you think you could light the Advent candles for us?’
So, in typical Saipan style — despite it being about 30 seconds before the service was about to start, I got handed a little script and a lighter to do the honors. I am so glad I’ve been thinking about Advent recently! We lit the third candle representing ‘Joy’ which is totally appropriate for me in light of being here celebrating the Advent season in Saipan.
I didn’t keep the reading, but here’s a similar one I found online to the one I did.
During Christmas, surrounded by family and friends, we feel the warmth of knowing we belong in this place, with these people. Or we experience the jarring disappointment that can come when we feel we do not belong. This season is a time of opposites—highs and lows, joy and depression, rushing when we want to stand still.
Within the Christmas story itself, we find opposites. Angels, heaven’s most glorious citizens, visit with shepherds, Bethlehem’s least. The God who chose to partner with an unwed mother and be born in a barn also chose shepherds, the outcasts of the day, to be the first to hear the news that Emmanuel has come.
The world has a habit of discarding what doesn’t fit. Our God does the opposite. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”
God sends angels to shepherds and gathers in what the world throws out. As we read in Jeremiah 30:17, God restores people to health and heals their wounds because they are called outcasts. And He does this very thing on that night in Bethlehem.
In these final days leading up to Christmas, we see angels visiting shepherds. And we remember that God cares for us as lambs. God loves when we do not. God calls us to love everyone, no matter what.
We light this first candle for every child of God who has known what it is to be an outcast. We light this second candle in acknowledgement that God does not shut out, but welcomes in.
We light this third candle as a symbol of God’s light shining in the darkness. Genesis 1:3 reminds us that a long time ago, God said “Let there be light.” And there was light.
In other news, I canNOT believe that it is one week until Christmas. I’m trying to keep my Christmas lights on more often to enjoy them during the season. (I may be that person who has their lights up still in February though!) This Friday is the hospital’s Christmas party — well, it was organized and run by the nurse managers since the hospital can’t exactly sponsor a party — but it will be considered the hospital’s party nonetheless. If you didn’t know, many of our staff at the hospital are from the Philippines – and Filipinos know how to celebrate Christmas. They put up ornaments starting in October and are famous for their lights and celebrations. I even saw this article on CNN about their Christmas-ness! That translates to our Christmas party for sure.
It’s probably no surprise to the people that know me that I don’t really dance. Period. I never really danced as a child, in college I took two required physical education classes — ballroom dance and ballet — which I enjoyed but clearly was not a master of. I think I even got a ‘B’ in those classes! But, as part of my truly enjoying my job — I agreed to participate in the group performances as part of the pediatric group. Let me tell you… little did I know! (I really thought it would just be nice for at least one of the performance groups to have a physician involved… but that’s really all I thought). We practice fairly often (sometimes even daily) and even have a special costume. We are a group of 9 dancing to a medley from ‘Grease’ with our theme as the 70s. I have had such a good time laughing with the other nurses involved although much of the laughing is directed at my inability to do certain dance moves. I’ve successfully memorized all the steps though to our 6 minute dance and expect to have a blast at our performance on Friday (at one of the large hotels on stage in front of all the staff of the hospital!!).
I’ll let you know how it goes!