We have already past the midway point through Advent, and last Saturday our house community decorated our home for Christmas, finishing in time to get ready for the 4pm Third Sunday of Advent Liturgy, traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. The pink candle on our Advent wreathe was lit, the celebrant adorned the penitential purple with a pink stole, and we were greeted with phrases: “Shout for joy…sing joyfully…be glad and exult with all your heart! …Cry out with joy and gladness…. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say Rejoice,” and we prayed: “O God…your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity; enable us to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.”
Oops, I thought to myself – I have not checked my Joy Meter lately, busy about many things, with mind dwelling more on the bad news of recent killings, ISIS, Trump hate-talk, racism, environmental disasters…and small day to day frustrations, irritations. What? How could my Joy Meter be registering in the lower quadrant during this wonderful Advent/Christmas season? But really, it is so easy to get derailed from the joy, “the hope to which we are called!” (Ephesians 1:18). My immediate remedy? – change my focus and a make conscious attitude adjustment; it’s amazing how much that can re-energize me for the day’s ministry! What about you? Have you checked your Joy Meter lately?
This past week I received another e-mail from another blog writer – one of our Dominicans of Peace Associates – sharing her reflections on the Christmas story, our expectations, and what we really need. I thought it could give further grist for us to chew on, and may even help raise our Joy Meter to upper quadrants! So, please read on.
What We Need
Doesn’t it seem that during the Christmas season when difficulties arise they seem so much worse? Is it really true that there are more of those things in this season or is it that we want this month to be trouble free and peaceful? It’s probably that. With the words peace, love, joy, friendship, and harmony all over the place, even on my Christmas dishes, we expect an oasis to appear where we can rest from the cares of life. But of course, that isn’t possible and if we stop and think we realize that the original Christmas was anything but trouble free. A young couple far from home, expecting a baby any minute, strangers in a strange town dependent on an indifferent world for help.
The art depicting the Nativity has left a false impression and is pretty far from the actual conditions. They are depicted as supremely serene yet it must have been terrifying. Anyone who has witnessed birth and its immediate aftermath knows the truth. In this case the surroundings were dirty, smelly, likely damp and chilly on top of everything else. All they had going for them was their trust in God. What the future held they had no idea and they hung on for dear life to the belief that God was at their side. Sound familiar? It’s a pretty sure thing that at some time in our lives we will be in a situation where all we have is our faith in God to sustain us.
The birth of the Savior had to be in such circumstances because He came to give hope to the world. He came to proclaim that He is willing to do everything it takes to assure us of his Love. This is truly what Christmas is about. All the decorations, gifts, and festivities are just trimming and when things are difficult they are not enough to sustain us. Through this extraordinary event and the example of Mary and Joseph, Christ is telling us that when we have God we have everything we need.