“Rejoice in the Lord, always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (NAB, PHIL 4:4) These words from St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians call us to a life of joy. So often we see Christians, and perhaps we ourselves are guilty, of having long faces and apathetic spirits that seem miserable, with no sign or semblance of joy at all! Listen further to St. Paul: “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:5-7)
The Christian identity is based in joy. At a daily Mass on May 23, 2016, Pope Francis beautifully spoke about this issue: “The identification card of a Christian is joy: the joy of the Gospel, the joy of having been elected by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus. [It is] the joy of the hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that – even in the crosses and sufferings of this life – is expressed in a different way, which is having peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us; that He is with us.”
This period of Advent waiting and preparation is the anticipating of the Christmas joy we will celebrate. We long for Emanuel, whose name means “God with us.” We will sing the great song, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” beginning this week, through Christmas. It is our prayer and our statement of faith that God is truly with us. His presence in both good times and bad, gives us, through his grace, the abiding peace to live a life of joy.
Our scripture reminds us, “the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear [because] the Lord, your God … will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.” (ZEP 3:15, 17) As we await the coming of our Savior and the celebration of his birth in Bethlehem, let us prepare our hearts and souls to receive his presence, to realize his presence in our lives, and as the Christmas celebration approaches, may our hearts burst open with Christian joy so that WE become Joy to the world!
Heavenly Father, give me a clean heart and purify my soul, so that I may empty myself of what keeps me from you, so as to receive the incredible and indescribable gift of your Son, the infant born to Mary, Jesus, my Lord and my Savior. Let me always know your presence, so that in your peace, I may be joy in this world. Amen.