This candle reflects the joy that comes through Jesus’ arrival, and through the salvation he has gifted us. During this third week of advent, this Sunday celebrates the passage Philippians 4:4-5, its verses extolling readers to “rejoice” for “indeed the Lord is near.” This Sunday is traditionally known as “Gaudete” or “Rejoice” Sunday, so called because of the heightened excitement in anticipation for the birth of Christ
During a time where depression is at an all-time high and people seem to be in the most despair, this candle offers a bright light during a dark time.
It is also known as the Shepherd Candle to highlight the joy the shepherds experienced when they received the good news about Christ’s birth (Luke 2:8-20). During the middle of the night, the darkest time, the shepherds encountered angels.
The third candle of Advent has an unusual place. In most advent wreaths, it is the one candle that is a different color, pink, than the others. There is something unique, more spontaneous, and celebratory about the theme of the third week of Advent compared to the others.
In contrast to purple, pink or rose represents joy and celebration. One of the ancient church’s popes gave a citizen a pink rose on the third Sunday of Lent, symbolizing the moment of joy amidst Lent’s fasting and penance. Therefore, when Catholic priests modeled Advent celebrations on Lent, they wore rose-colored robes and set the third Sunday of December as the time to remember joy. The pink or rose-colored advent candle is lit on that third Sunday.
It’s also worth noting that more so than the other three Advent themes, joy is something we associate with spontaneous action. Hope, peace, joy, and love are all things that God places in us and should be ongoing attitudes in our lives. However, hope and peace are generally seen as inner qualities that we cultivate by meditating on ideas like God’s provision. Love is something we do, but also something we cultivate and meditate on.
Joy tends to have a more spontaneous effect. Joy can motivate us to celebrate or worship with glorious abandon (like David did when he danced in front of the ark of the covenant). In that light, it’s appropriate that the advent candle representing joy is a different color, highlighting the different nature of joy compared to the other advent themes.