I can't think about Gaudete Sunday without thinking about Helen Locke. Helen was the organist at the first church I served in Lafayette Indiana. She was a force to be reckoned with. It did not hurt that I was a baby in that church during my dad's first years in ministry. Helen and I had some deep history. Her brother-in-law was my dad's best friend and she reluctantly loved me. Helen was a severe person who lived with her brother, a troubled soul. Helen's territory was all things musical and sanctuary details.
At my first Advent season, Helen decorated the communion table with an Advent wreath that was all wrong! It had three purple candles and one pink candle with the center white Christ candle. The pink candle was all wrong (by wrong I meant it was not the way my family and the church in St. Paul set up advent wreaths: four purple candles). We went round and round about it. Helen would not budge. But I was the "Pastor" and I did not want a sentimental pink candle that smacked more of Hallmark cards than good liturgy.
So, on the Saturday before the third Sunday in Advent, I went to the sanctuary and allowed the pink candle to fall to the floor and break in half. I then replaced it with a purple candle and waited for Sunday. Of course Helen was apoplectic! "What happened to the pink candle?" she asked (more like yelled). "It broke" I said honestly (but not morally). That locked us into a battle that last six months, until doing seminary research I realized Helen was right and I was wrong. The third Sunday in Advent was named Gaudete (Latin for "joy") to break the long Advent fast and somberness. It was an insertion of grace into law and tedium.
I had to confess my findings to Helen that June after my research. I told her about the "dropped" candle and she graciously forgave me and from that time on there was a pink candle in the wreath (at church). God bless Helen.