The Gospel of Luke’s account of the birth of Christ has the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds. The angel tells them: “Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you.”
The Joy of Christmas
This year we, as Australian Catholics, celebrate Christmas within the Year of Youth with the theme of “Open New Horizons for Spreading Joy” for this Year. This year’s Christmas, then, is a great opportunity for us to reflect on the Theme for the Year of Youth particularly in terms of Joy and the Spreading/Sharing of Joy and, in particular, the Joy of Christmas. The Joy of Christmas, as explained by the angel’s next words, comes from a specific reason and it is that a Saviour has been born for us. This is the Joy of Christmas.
There is always a tendency for us to seek salvation through what the world can offer whether that be through material, political, emotional or social means but, while those things can save us in certain situations and from certain circumstances, none of those things can ultimately save us from the most powerful forces in our world which are evil, sin and death. However, the Joy of Christmas is that salvation from those forces is not only possible but through not a thing or a means but through a Person: a Saviour who has come into our world to save us.
A Joy to be Shared
As the words of the angel say as well as the theme for the Year of Youth, that Joy is not only meant to be for ourselves but it is meant to be shared and spread to all the people around us and it is really needed in our time. We live in a world that not only tries to offer alternative forms of salvation and inferior joys but also constant reasons that can dampen pure joy whether that be events in the world, in our local communities or even in our own personal lives.
However, for us to spread and share Joy, we need to first have it. As the old saying goes, “You can’t give what you don’t have”. The Joy that we speak about is not just an emotion or a state of mind but it is a state of the soul and it comes as a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. This means that this Joy that we speak of only comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our souls and then for that to flow into our lives and those around us.
How do we do this? In terms of Christmas, by allowing Christ to be born anew in our hearts. We do this by developing our relationship with Christ particularly throughout the coming year through making time everyday to converse with Him in prayer, by receiving Him in Holy Communion, by receiving His Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by avoiding sin and growing in virtue and taking more of an active role in the life of the Church and the work of evangelisation. All these things don’t have to be extraordinary things but, if we’re consistent, they can have extraordinarily joyful effects for us and for others.
In all this, we can look to Mary as an example. Pope Francis is asking the young people of the world to look to Mary especially in the lead up to World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019. In the Christmas story, Mary is a great example in her simple, quiet yet courageous witness of her faith in being able to spread and share much joy – the Joy that Jesus can give. We see that in the Visitation bringing the Joy of Jesus’ presence to John the Baptist and Elizabeth and in Jesus’ Nativity of that Joy to all who came to that stable in Bethlehem.
There is much reason for us to have Joy at Christmas. However, let’s not only celebrate that Joy but share and spread it in the year ahead particularly as young Catholics in the Year of Youth.