On the third Sunday of Advent, I preached a homily entitled, “From Fa la la to Joy.” I remember saying that joy is a matter of the soul; that joy comes from within whereas, “fa la la” comes from the outside. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you may experience the joy that comes from your soul warmly welcoming Jesus - the God who comes to dwell among us.
The most details we have about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus comes from the gospel of Luke. One of the main themes of his gospel is joy. Luke’s joy is the kind of joy that never fades. No matter how dark things get, Luke’s joy never fades. Thus, after the annunciation to Mary by angel Gabriel, when human concerns such as social pressure of an unintended pregnancy, or, the fear of Mary being stoned to death could have dominated the story, Luke’s Mary is capable of singing, “My soul glorifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Even at the crucifixion of Jesus, Luke does not fail to narrate a comforting, dare I say, a joyful story - that of Jesus welcoming the repentant thief into paradise. After all, it is Luke’s Jesus who declared that there is joy over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine who have no need of repentance (Lk 15: 7). Even the darkest hour of Jesus’ gruesome death is not without a reason for joy. It is because joy never fades. Indeed it cannot.
Numerous events will define our Christmas celebrations this year. We will celebrate the Christmas liturgy, have a meal with family and friends, share Christmas wishes and exchange gifts. Some will do this even though the soon ending year may have brought with it its share of life’s burdens - illnesses, deaths, unexpected financial uncertainties or broken relationships. In spite it all, the human spirit finds enough reason to celebrate Christmas. I believe this is because, somehow, for people who believe, joy never fades even when there reason for it to fade; because our soul forever belongs to our God who came to dwell with us; because God is “Emmanuel” - God with us.
When I said earlier that my prayer for your this Christmas is that you may experience joy, this is what I meant - that you may discover the child Jesus in the deepest part of your being, your soul. And having discovered him there, may you bow down in homage before him like the angels, the shepherds and the magi. In that act of homage may your soul and your God become one - like the word made flesh, like the divine now made human. In that act of homage, may you find unfading joy.
I wish you all a joyful Christmas and blessed New Year.
St. Helen Parish
Grace. Fire. Hospitality. Liturgy. Family. Hope.