On CatholicTV and in our parishes we sing in these familiar words: “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you…” On Christmas morning we will sing: “Joy to the World, the Lord is come…”
Joy…that is the word of the day…Rejoice. Traditionally this weekend has been referred to as Gaudete Sunday or the Sunday of Joy. It is the weekend we begin to light the rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath and the vestments at Mass might be rose colored.
We rejoice because the coming of our God is close at hand…like the precious yield of the soil for which the farmer waits.
What does it mean to be joyful? Happy…well, yes. But many things make us happy. Christmas cards and lights for example, or finding the right gift; the sight of Santa Claus, an easy day at school or at work; good health, new clothes, going out to supper or the movies; here in Boston, celebrating a World Series win or watching the Patriots win again and again!
However, there is a little, no a lot more to being joyful than just feeling happy. There are so many things which make us unhappy…the threat of terrorism, for one; a war that drags on and on with the weekly report of young soldiers killed in their prime; crime in our city streets; the sickness of a family member or perhaps our own struggling condition; the way that the celebration of Christmas gets grosser and stranger every year; perhaps some dream or goal that remains unrealized; a death in the family and grief that we just cannot get past. We have much to be sad about but, I would daresay that though we might be saddened, at the same time, be able to rejoice!
I think of the great work being done in parishes all over the place. I think of the hard work that groups such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Salvation Army or the Globe Santa do for struggling families. I think of the ongoing work of our Religious Education Programs and RCIA teams who share the fullness of the Faith with young and old. I think of the real spirit of this season which is precisely the presence of our God among us…He Who came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in an animal feeder.
These things are the cause of great joy. Despite the many difficulties and controversy that swirl around us, the Church is very much alive…right here! Jesus Christ is among us and He is alive! How fortunate we are to have such an instrument as CatholicTV to bring the true joy of the Gospel message to you, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Had Jesus Christ not come among us in Bethlehem some two millennia ago, what good would life be to us? We will listen to those words sung next Easter at the Great Vigil: "What good would life have been to us had Christ not come as our Redeemer.”
This is the cause of our joy: the coming of our God among us – to renew His friendship with us, to bring us hope and to show us true love. In this Eucharist the words of the prophet Isaiah ring true: Be strong, fear not: here is your God.
Rejoice, rejoice…to you shall come Emmanuel. Jesus is the One for whom we look; He is the object of our deepest desire! This Christmas, what we await is more than something to simply make us happy…it is Jesus, the cause of our joy.