During these days, along with the Christian desire to love the newborn child, there arises, even among people of no faith, a desire to live solidarity and to bring happiness to others. It is a celebration of love that manifests itself in many ways: feasts, charity work, gift exchanges, secret Santa, etc.
But is the joy of Christmas something that passes way in time, just as the seasons come and go? For some it’s just that: come Christmas time they are in a better mood, more joyful, and more willing to share that joy. However, they are not necessarily aware of the deeper reason for the joy lived during Christmas season.
1. What is Joy?
Joy is a synonym of delight and jubilation. It arises from within, motivated by present events and our relationships with others. It is usually manifested through exterior signs: words, gestures, or actions. Joy is meant to be shared and lived with others.
We all want and seek joy. However, while we can all agree that human joy is something good, it is undeniably transitory and imperfect. In and of itself, it does not fulfill the longing for eternal joy that our hearts yearn for. Admittedly, in our search for true and definitive joy we often mistakenly take the path that leads to false experiences of joy —mere substitutes of the true, the good, and the beautiful— and instead we are deceived into seeking joy in power, possessions, or pleasure.
St. Paul reminds us of the path toward a joy that completely fills our hearts: “Be joyful in the Lord.” This instruction is made reality in the life of Mary.
«My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior». Luke 1:46-47
Mary’s heart overflows with joy from the God of love! God is the fount of true and definitive joy, the only joy that is capable of satisfying our hearts. God is one and triune. This means that God lives in a communion of love, in overflowing joy and delight. It is this God that willed to create us and communicate his love to us, and with that love, his joy of heart.
«He as regarded the low estate of his handmaiden». Luke 1:48
Moreover, Mary rejoices because God has chosen her to be the mother of his Son. God, knowing her and loving her, uncovers for her the profound meaning of her life. And He does the same with us: knowing and loving each one of us, he entrusts to us a particular mission —as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, students, professionals, friends, ministers in some work of the Church, etc.—.
«The purest joy lies in the relationship with him, encountered, followed, known and loved, thanks to a constant effort of mind and heart».
In our friendship with the Lord, our lives become full of joy, peace, serenity and meaning. This friendship is nourished in the silence of prayer: opening ourselves to God’s love for us and listening, that we in turn may grow in love.
The joy of one that loves like Christ is not naïve. It is not about escaping from reality and living in a bubble where everything is perfect. This joy does not deny the suffering nor the sin that we experience in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Rather, this joy is sustained in uniting ourselves to the love of Christ crucified, the maximum expression of love.
Our Joy is in loving as Christ loved us.
Joy is nourished by hope in the promise of eternal life and by trust in the loving Providence of the Father that looks out for us and strengthens us in facing our difficulties.
True joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a free gift from God that upon receiving, we are called to preserve and unfold. Being a gift, we must ask for it, along with the help to live it out intensely.
«The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus». Evangelii Gaudium, n. 1.
2. The Joy of Christmas
«The joy of Christmas is serene and tranquil. It is a joy that always accompanies a Christian. Even in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace».
There are many reasons for the joy that Christmas brings. In Christmas, God shows us who we are with infinite tenderness. What is more tender and fragile than a small, defenseless child? Still, God comes precisely in that form: a weak and needy child! He comes needy of another’s care, love, teaching, and solidarity.
In the incarnation, God becomes man and thus uncovers the greatness of being human, even in our weaknesses. The first teaching the Lord gives us, then, is to not fear our own weakness, for he is looking after us. It is a beautiful lesson: to trust in him and to let ourselves be taken care of, as he did with the handmaid of Nazareth.
It is through this child that our Father exposes his heart before us: good, noble, pure, simple, and in solidarity with us. With this he gives us yet another motive to place our trust in Him. In a world of self-sufficiency that clings to security of any kind, the Father shows us how to live amidst difficulties, suffering, and weaknesses. He invites us to trust in his ways, even when we can’t make sense of it, because he loves us and is always beside us, caring for us and providing us with his grace.
«I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved». Evangelii Gaudium, n. 6.
Thus, in contemplating the child Jesus we see the great love of God for us. How can we but be filled with anything else but a profound joy? Here we are no longer speaking of a worldly joy that in reality lacks solid foundation.
«In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him». 1 Jhon 4:9
Out of this love arises the profound motive for Christian joy that takes shape in Christmas carols, light, and presents. These are expressions of a deep gratitude toward God for His great love!
From this angle, the joy of Christmas is not something that comes and goes. It may be expressed more intensely during this time of year, but it goes on to sustain our lives in every moment. For its source is the never-ending love of God.
In order to better understand the joy of Christmas, let us turn our attention to the heart of Mary. She was the first to experience this joy. This small child, the Son of God, is a fruit of her self-gift to God. A lesson emerges: nothing can take away the joy that proceeds from a participating in God’s joy.
3. Apostles of the Joy of Christmas
«Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy». Luke 2:10
With these words the angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The angel is announcing an experience of profound joy that the Lord Jesus brings to our lives. Let us proclaim this great joy to the whole world: Christmas is Jesus!
«When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him». Matthew 2:10-11
The star is what announced to the three wise men the place where they would find the child Jesus, and joy filled their hearts upon finding him. The announcement of Jesus brings an overwhelming delight to those who receive it. Why would we keep others from receiving such a joy? Let us present Jesus to others as Mary did.
«In the Child born in Bethlehem God came close to man: we can still encounter him now, in a “today” on which the sun never sets».
Let us announce the love of the Father and the joy of encountering Jesus at all times, keeping in mind a particular and fundamental form of apostolate: living love, friendship, and service with the disadvantaged and forgotten of the world. They ought to be the center of the love of the Church because they are at the center of the love of Jesus. It’s time to get outside our comfort zones and reach out to the existential peripheries, following the invitation of Pope Francis.
- «My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he as regarded the low estate of his handmaiden». Lk 1:46-48
- «Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart». Ps 32
- «In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious that gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls». 1 Pet 1:6-9
TEXTS ABOUT JOY
«He that will have joy of himself shall be sad; but he that will have his joy of God will ever rejoice, because God is everlasting. Do you desire to have everlasting joy? Cleave to Him who is everlasting». Saint Agustine, Trac Ev. S. Jhon XIV,2.
«The reason for your sadness is sin, may the reason for your joy be holiness». Saint Agustine, about psalm 42.
«No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, … Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life». Saint Leo the Great, Sermon 21.
 «There is also needed a patient effort to teach people, or teach them once more, how to savor in a simple way the many human joys that the Creator places in our path: the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice. The Christian will be able to purify, complete and sublimate these joys; he will not be able to disdain them. Christian joy presupposes a person capable of natural joy». Gaudete in domino, 12.
 Philippians 3:1
 «Joy always springs from a certain outlook on man and on God… his vocation to happiness always passes through the channels of knowledge and love, of contemplation and action». Gaudete in domino, 73.
 Bendict XVI, Angelus, Sunday, 15 January 2006.
 See Dives in Misericorde, 8.
 Galatians 5:22-23.
 Homily of his Holiness Pope Francis, Third Sunday of Advent, 14 December 2014.
 John 16:22.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience, Dec. 21, 2011
 See Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20.