We are called to joy! We are called to rejoicing! We are called to the proclamation of the Good News that Jesus Christ is born. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man is born! Our God, our Creator has become man, one of us. Not merely with us. One of us! He shares our struggles, our weaknesses, our heartbreaks, our woundedness, but He also gives us our happiness, our victories, our ability to love even in our bleakest of hours.
We live in a world awash of sadness and tragedy. It is easily to be dragged down into the mire of human misery. We seem to be surrounded by it day in and day out because of our ever present media which needs to fill unending hours with programming that will hopefully somehow garner enough ratings to justify it's existence. Unfortunately, because of the world's darkness, this news is mainly tragic, revealing the tragedy of humankind immersed in sin.
Once enmeshed in this misery, it is very difficult to extract ourselves from the notion that there really is no hope and that any hope we may ultimately feel is self manufactured. In this atmosphere it is easy to be drawn into the fighting and pettiness of broken relationships and embittered people who profess a belief in the Kingdom of God, but whose lives reflect none of the joy that Christians see as their birthright.
Think of the plight of Mary and Joseph as they arrived in Bethlehem of Judea to participate in the census ordered by Rome. Upon their arrival, Mary, we can presume, began to go into labor. Time was of the essence from that point on because infant mortality in the ancient world was quite high. But because the town was so packed with visitors obeying the Roman decree, the young couple could find nowhere safe and warm in which to welcome their newborn child into the world.
They could have easily given into the negativity that greeted them. They could have turned bitter, cursing God for their misfortune. They could have grown angry toward the innkeepers they spoke with who refused them entry into their establishments because "there was no room in the inn(s)." Giving birth was difficult enough in that era, but with nowhere to ensure the best outcome, the task ahead was potentially even more difficult with a tragic ending.
However, Joseph and Mary did not give into the anger and bitterness they found that night. They kept God at the center of their lives in that very difficult moment because they not only believed in God and His promises to them, but they believed God. They believed His promises and somehow understood that God would deliver them safely and securely. And that is precisely what happened.
The story, of course, perhaps the most famous and certainly the most important story of a birth in human history, ended happily with the birth of a healthy baby boy. Although this baby boy was no ordinary human being and this birth was no ordinary birth. The baby boy was, of course, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Joy could not be contained that night. Choirs of angels announced this extraordinary arrival. A special star appeared in the sky so that those outside of the Jewish nation could be introduced to the newborn Savior of the world; news that would be taken out to the larger world.
The darkness and bitterness of the world, in the person of King Herod, attempted to snuff out the light of joy Who is Jesus Christ by destroying scores of boys aged two and under. From the moment of His birth, darkness and light clashed in an epic battle for the hearts, minds, and souls of the human race. And in the end, joy triumphed through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of this tiny baby who was laid to rest on a bed of straw in some isolated corner of the world only to be executed in the darkest hour of the world.
How about you? Do you feel called to joy? Do you feel like rejoicing? Does your life reflect your Christianity in the joyous way in which you live? Or have the holiday rituals of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and settling family squabbles darkened your joy or eliminated it completely?
If so, recall the words of the angel on that faraway night when the world heard: "Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior Who is Christ the Lord." (Lk 2: 11)
As we move ever closer to this sacred season of Christmas, let us ask ourselves in which way do we not only experience joy in our lives, but in what way do we give of this joy to one another. Our joy, when rooted in the saving actions of our God, namely, His Incarnation, His Passion, Death and Resurrection, is eternal and cannot be contained any more than the announcement of His birth could be contained two millennia ago.
So, therefore, believe. Rid yourselves of the rancor of this world. Shed the darkness of humanity mired in hopelessness, and put on the light of joy! Rejoice and be glad! Your God has come! The Savior of the world, Emmanuel, is now with us. How can we not be joyous?