“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything.” (Philippians 4:4-6).
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, which is also known as Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. One word which captures today’s liturgy is Joy. Our readings today not only demand our happiness, but they also outline the reasons why we must be happy. Zephaniah says: “Sing aloud… shout… rejoice and exult with all your heart… (because), the Lord is in your midst, you shall fear no more.”
Our Responsorial Psalm says: “Shout and sing for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians says: “Rejoice always… (because)… the Lord is at hand.” And in our Gospel passage, St. Luke tells us that John the Baptist preached “Good News to the people.” Let us now consider the lessons contained in today’s readings.
One: Christmas is a Happy Time because Jesus is Incarnated in Many
The happiest Christmas most people could remember was during their childhood days. This primarily as a result of the love and care they received in the form of gifts such as new clothes, new shoes, or even the very fact that Daddy and Mummy were just there to spend time with them, take them out, or go visiting places they had never been before. What makes Christmas really pleasant for the kids is the fact that they receive more than they give and this is only possible because parents go the extra mile to make sacrifices for them. This means that Christmas is a happy time not because it is Jesus’ birthday but because there are people who celebrate it by becoming Jesus through acts of sacrifice and generosity.
The joy of Christmas is God giving away his only son Jesus to save mankind. When we give gifts to others during Christmas or even make out time to be with others regardless of what it costs us, we literally incarnate Jesus. No wonder in today’s Gospel passage, we hear John the Baptist saying: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here and the way to be happy is to make others happy and we will have a little heaven down here. Don’t just celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, become Jesus by giving your time, your energy, and money to others and you will be happy.
Two: Sin Takes Away Our Joy.
Nothing brings as much pain as the death of a loved one especially during a season like this. Considering the fact that as St. Paul puts it, the wages of sin is death, we cannot but safely conclude that every time we sin, we bring in death both to ourselves and to all who become victims of our sinful actions. To tax collectors, John the Baptist says “collect no more than is appointed.” To soldiers, he says “Rob no one by violence or false accusation, be content with your pay.”
If John the Baptist was here today, I guess he would say something similar to those who cheat others, those who try to take advantage of the season to indulge in criminal activities as well as those who carry out acts of man’s inhumanity to man. Let’s face the fact, you can never be happy by depriving others of their happiness. All sin is death. Avoid it and you will find true happiness this Christmas.
Three: The Magic of Christmas is Contentment.
Christmas affords us the opportunity to cool off our ever anxious minds thereby giving us a chance to NOTICE the beauty of God’s creation as well as the beauty of life itself. This is exactly the point St. Paul seeks to drive home in today’s second reading when he said: “Have no anxiety about anything… and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The air that blows on Christmas day is the same as other days but there is a difference; our minds are not too distracted on this very day to notice the air, the trees, the grass, and even the decorations. Do you wish every day was Christmas? Then follow St. Paul’s advice; constantly free your minds from anxiety and practice contentment. Learn to submit your worries to God in prayer. Take out time to notice or admire the beauty of creation around us.
Four: No Place Like Home.
Indeed, without family there is no Christmas and family here goes beyond one’s siblings, it includes all those we feel a strong connection with, even childhood friends, distant relations, and those with whom we are not in talking terms. The reunion and togetherness Christmas affords are like medicine for humanity as a whole. The best and indeed the happiest place to be during Christmas is with family or amongst one’s roots.
Create time for family bearing in mind that you belong to a special family where God is addressed as “Our Father.” Do not be so glued to social media, spend time with real human beings, mend broken fences, forgive past hurts, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of joy to the world this Christmas. Amen.
Bible Study: Zephaniah 3:14-18, Psalm (Isaiah) 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, and Luke 3:10-18).