“When a man loves, his heart overflows. He would like to share his joy with others. He gets this from his creator. Although God is a mystery, we can still think about him in a human way and say: Out of the “surplus” of his love he created us. He wanted to share his endless joy with us, who are creatures of his love.”
-You Cat #2.
The third week of Advent calls us to focus on Joy. If you went to mass this past Sunday you would notice that the pink candle was lit and the feeling of Christmas day was that much closer because there is now only one unlit candle on the wreath next to the alter. Joy is something that is often misunderstood. Its meaning gets tangled up with other words such as happiness, fun and pleasure. Although all those things are good in themselves, joy is much deeper. True authentic joy is not a gift that is given freely from God like faith or love. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In other words it is the effect of a life style centered on Christ.
For us to know Christ and have our life centered on him requires that the Holy Spirit guides us first. The Holy Spirit is the person and action between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the person that seeks us first and enables us with the grace to turn to Christ with everything we have. Jesus speaks to us saying, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (John 15:9-11).
It is easy to see that joy can come from many places. There is not a single person on earth that cannot find joy from a basket full of puppies. If you were to see a basket full of puppies, the universal response would be, “awwwww, puppies!” Joy can also be found in relationships with other people and the possession material of things. Not all joy is the same. If your joy comes from things that have a beginning, then that source will have an end. Authentic joy has no beginning and no end. Its source is God who has no beginning and no end. Joy received from God is complete and perfect through Christ.
As Christians our joy is tangible. It does not come about by accident or without putting forth any effort. Joy requires conforming your will, actions and life to the will of God. In the letter to the Galatians St. Paul writes a warning for us to not live in the flesh but rather by the Spirit. When we give into the desires of our flesh our joy can be stolen. Sin brings shame, secrets and despair. Joy cannot be found in anything that brings about shame, secrets and despair. “Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:11-14). We have every reason to be joyful in this season of Advent. Christ is coming and when he arrives we will know joy that will extend beyond anything we can experience here on earth.
Be found waiting and prepared for Christ.
Reflect on one or both of the verses below. Begin in prayer asking God to reveal where Christ is in your life. Where he is, your joy will be too.
Advent calls us to be reminded of Christ’s incarnation and his return. We read in scripture about the joy that Christ brings to whom he comes into contact with, even before he was out of Mary’s womb. In the gospel of Luke, Mary is found traveling while she was pregnant with Jesus and she visits her cousin Elizabeth.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” –Luke 1:41-45
The incarnation of Christ in your life might come in unexpected ways. The shepherds in this verse tending their flock did not expect to see what they saw. Try to put yourself on the hill with the shepherds in the middle of the night. What did they see? What did they feel?
“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angle of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” –Luke 2:8-14