Inhaling Joy

I went to my friend Amy’s for dinner last week. I walked in her front door, exhaling the stress of the day and inhaling the warmth of the risotto cooking on her stove, the fire in her fireplace, and the smile of her beautiful son who looked up from his game to say, “Hi, Miss Annie!”

Amy’s house is where it’s at if you are looking for relaxation, for welcome, and for, well, food. I walked to the kitchen and found Amy there so I could complain about the horse collar tackle that should have been called in the recent Bills game. We commiserated about the bad refs for awhile, and then she pointed to a tray of fancy drinks on her counter.

“Alcohol or no alcohol?” Amy asked. She has such a wide variety of friends who may or may not be drinking for any given reason, so she usually checks before handing any one of us her famous mulled wine or a special seasonal cocktail that can be made with sparkling water instead of champagne.

“No alcohol,” I said. I had a headache and didn’t want to make it worse.

Amy pressed a drink into my hand, and I had to stop and stare for a minute. It was a citrus-ey color, yellowish orange, and it had what can only be described as sprigs of something festive poking through the ice. Rosemary, perhaps? Sage, or even pine needles? Beneath the ice were a few vermillion-hued cranberries, and I selected one carefully with a toothpick and wove it through the ice and sprigs, popping it into my mouth. It was light and sour; my lips puckered and I sipped Amy’s work of art, savoring this drink but even more this home, always filled to the brim with beauty and joy.

The third Sunday in Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday,” from the Latin noun “gaudium” for “joy,” and the related verb “gaudeo,” which means “to rejoice or delight in”. On an Advent wreath, there are four candles surrounding the white Christmas candle. Three of the candles are purple, and one is pink. The purple (or sometimes blue) candles symbolize royalty as we await the coming king, Jesus Christ. But one candle is pink, which shows a lightening of the purple just as joy lightens our hearts. We celebrate “Joy Sunday” when we are three-quarters of the way through Advent—our anticipation of Christmas intensifies, and we mark that excitement with a joyful pink candle.

Our readings this week are full of joy and celebration, two of the hallmarks of my friend Amy’s character and way of life. The prophet Isaiah writes,

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God” (61:10).

The psalmist writes,

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced…may those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy” (126:3,5).

In Mary’s beautiful Magnificat, recorded in the book of Luke, she says,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (1:46-47).

And not to be outdone, the Apostle Paul is the most direct of them all, stating simply,

“Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Intentional rejoicing is a holy calling and a Biblical mandate, and while we can certainly experience joy on our own, bringing people together into a rejoicing community multiplies delight. It also allows us to come alongside each other when we might be sowing in tears and still waiting for a harvest of joy. We experience joy together, and we also anticipate joy together, as this Sunday’s pink candle reminds us.

Even though Amy hosts parties and gatherings throughout the year, the first time I got an invitation that said, “Please come to my house for a party to celebrate all things fall,” I was a bit surprised. But since then I’ve celebrated fall and birthdays and adoptions and holidays and everyday miracles with Amy.

It will come as no surprise that Amy’s favorite day of the year is Gaudete Sunday, and she even has traditions to mark the day’s jubilance. She casually asked me a few years ago, “Do you want to meet for a ‘Joy Sunday’ brunch?” By that time I was accustomed to Amy’s constant yet intentional rejoicing, so I immediately said yes. When I showed up at the restaurant, Amy was wearing a shirt that said, “Until further notice, celebrate everything.”

What a joy for me to be in the blessed orbit of Amy’s warmth and welcome, from cranberries and risotto to the little gifts she often leaves her friends with at the end of a get-together. After dinner last week, Amy got out bags of spices and fruit and a few sprigs of something festive. She guided us, her grateful friends, through crafting a pouch of fragrance that we could boil on our stovetops to make our houses “smell like Christmas”, in Amy’s words. We sprinkled cloves and cut oranges and spooned cinnamon, tying our bags of seasonal bliss and putting them in our purses to bring Amy’s spirit of celebration back to our own homes and families. We chatted and giggled through our craft, inhaling the smells of the season. Inhaling joy. 


  1. Mary loubHartnett

    Thank you! A beautiful reminder to rejoice always and to share that joy with family, friends and strangers!🙏🏻🎶🎶🌲

  2. Gretchen Erhardt

    Gaudete is well placed on the calendar, isn’t it–whether at home, at Amy’s home, at work, school, or church.

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