If you have been keeping up with our discussion in the last two articles that we began on Advent, this will be the third of five articles on Advent this December. In this article, we will spend some time discussing the Third Advent Candle. The candle that we light on the third Sunday of Advent is called “The Shepherd’s Candle” or “The Candle of Joy.” At FBC Fort Stockton we simply refer to it as the “Shepherd’s Candle of Joy.”
The Shepherd’s Candle of Joy is a pink or rose-colored candle. This color is supposed to represent JOY! It is a physical symbol of a spiritual reality that the Shepherds we filled with as they heard and received the message of joy from the Angels. For the shepherd’s great joy, the angels had announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them.
We find this account in Luke 2:8-20… “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
So that is the wonderful reality of the Shepherd’s Candle of Joy. Those who are in Christ, the Church, are the dwelling place of God on earth (Ephesians 2:22; Hebrews 10:21; 1 Peter 2:5) and the Church alone carries the same joy that the Shepherds did that night. This is the great joy that Jesus spoke of when He responded to Thomas (John 20:24-29) after Thomas insisted on not believing until he felt the hands and side of Jesus where He was crucified. Thomas responded with the same incredible proclamation of the angels that Christmas night. He declared that Jesus is the Lord and God in the flesh (though now a resurrected King who will return for His Church).
Then Jesus says something amazing about those of us who have not seen Jesus and yet believe. In John 20:29… Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Did you catch that? We who have not seen Jesus and yet believe are blessed (yes, with many things), but especially with this joy that the world cannot take away from Jesus’ bride, His Church.
I love how the Apostle Peter affirms this same joy for the local church when he is writing to the early local churches in Asia Minor in 1 Peter 1:8-9… “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Yes, this joy is what the Church remembers and proclaims.