Experience Joy to Understand Christmas

Experience Joy to Understand Christmas December 12, 2023

Pure joy

What am I truly looking for? When is the last time you experienced joy? I invite you to think back over the last week and see times that you have seen other people experience joy. It may be hard for some of us. Personally, I can think of the face of a toddler who was sharing Sees’ candies with me. Really, I did not want any more chocolate, but her engaging smile and obvious joy won me over. So often, we look at children to see examples of joy. But as Christians, we are all called to be witnesses of joy. Advent is a time to discover and live joy.

We all look for God

We are all looking to be happy. So many of our endeavors fall short, leaving an undeniable sense of emptiness. This inherent emptiness suggests that our hearts yearn for something far more profound and meaningful, a purpose of fulfillment that transcends the transient pleasures we often seek. Or, in the words of the Irish poet, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” There is a yearning in the human heart, and this yearning is to experience joy.

A command to be joyful

The third Sunday of Advent is all about joy. The Entrance Antiphon reads in Latin: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” which means: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We are commanded to be joyful. Yet, how often do we as Christians truly rejoice always? This is the challenge that we receive on this Sunday of joy and expectation.

Three of four candles are lit, symbolizing the third Sunday of Advent
Three Candles Lit, Representing 3rd Sunday of Advent | Courtesy of Pixabay

Experience joy

“What is joy – if not the gladness of the soul in the possession of what it loves? The nature of our joy manifests the nature of our love: the purity of our heart reflects its purity. We must then take great care that our joys do not lead us away from God.” (Marie Vincent Bernadot)

Don’t run away from God

When we pursue joys that lead us away from God, we end up bitter and alone. Joy is meant to be shared.

Don’t be deceived

We live in a world that is fascinated by joy, and yet so often tricked by its substitutes. In fact, the word that we normally use is “happiness” or “pleasure.” It is different when we are trying to find joy. Joy appears as if by accident. When we seek joy for its own sake, it eludes us. But when we learn to love and serve others, joy appears mysteriously, like an uninvited guest. Let us welcome this guest with open arms.

How Advent transmits joy

The liturgy of the third Sunday of Advent proclaims joy. The color of the vestments is rose, a color denoting joy. The decorations show our joy as well. The readings from both the New and Old Testament are a witness to joy.

The human drama

What is the great problem in the history of mankind? It is the problem of evil. Our first parents rejected God and disobeyed him, eating the forbidden fruit and ensuring for all of us a prohibition from entering paradise. The beginning of the story turned to tragedy very quickly. However, thankfully not everything ended there. God promised a Savior, and this is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

When is Jesus coming?

We might be making a similar experience to Isaiah in the first reading. The early Christians thought that the coming of the Lord was imminent. They would not have predicted Jesus taking 2,000 years to come back to earth. Isaiah, as well, might have been impatient for the coming of the Lord. He predicted his coming. Yet, Isaiah lived 700 years before the birth of Christ. His faith allowed him to see things in the future and rejoice because of them. We repeat in our hearts the words we hear in the first reading.

Words of hope

“I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvationand wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” (Is. 61:10)

To experience joy, we need God’s help

If we are going to experience joy, and not merely be seeking pleasure, we need God’s help. Our constant drive for pleasure is something that comes from the world and the devil. God wants us to enjoy creation, not consume it for our own pleasure. This Sunday, take a moment to sit back and enjoy the wonders of creation. This is one of the best ways to be truly Christian.

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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