Please join me in singing:
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the king of angels;
O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him: Christ, the Lord!
If you look in the index of songs of most hymnals, including our own, this familiar hymn is categorized as a Christmas song – NOT an Advent song. . .
But just to shake things up a bit – might I suggest that it really is an Advent song. . . after all we are called, we are invited, to come to Bethlehem –
to journey to meet the King of angels, God of God, light of light – our very God who is begotten – not created. Or so the verses of the song tell us.
And we are called, we are invited – to adore Him. And isn’t that what our whole lives as Christians is all about – to recognize and adore Christ not just in Bethlehem – but also in the day to day situations and people we encounter and meet on our journey of life?
And we are called, we are invited to come to Christ in two ways: joyful and triumphant – and therein lies a problem, I think, that we at least need to confront during our preparation period of Advent.
Because it seems to me that on most days, most of us are far from being joyful and come nowhere near being or feeling triumphant.
I think Pope Francis’ description of Catholics leaving Mass rings more true than we are willing to admit --- He said it’s as if we are leaving a funeral – rather than the foretaste of the great feast of heaven we have just received in the Word of God proclaimed – and the Body of Christ received.
Pope Francis says it’s as if we have gathered here and heard bad news – instead of GOOD NEWS. . . So the first obstacle to overcome this Advent – is how can we be more joyful?
And perhaps it is hard for us to be joyful – because we don’t very often feel too triumphant. . . and it’s not just that we all feel beaten up and at the point of being overwhelmed by the covid pandemic of the last couple of years ------------------- but haven’t we felt at our breaking point long before then?
Wearied from work, and responsibilities, and just life in general. . . Broken down by our faults and failings in relationships both with God and others – but also feeling the brokenness of our politics, our Church, and the constant demands placed upon us. . .
How many of us just feel worn out, with little energy, little tolerance, and little hope that things are going to get better ---
a weariness that can’t be shaken even by two cups of a double expresso mocha supreme???
Perhaps our lack of feeling triumphant is due to us trying to carry too many burdens on our own – but I am getting ahead of myself.
I think it is worth the investment of our time as well as our thoughts during this Advent season to simply ask how can we approach Bethlehem – approach Christmas, approach Christ throughout the year and throughout our lives with more joy and a sense of triumph??
Pope Francis has said that JOY is one of the four things by which every Christian should be known – the other three being love, harmony, and suffering.
The word JOY or REJOICE occurs 13 times in our Sunday readings during Advent – and several times in our prayers ---- more than any other word.
Obviously a call to be joyful is as resounding in the life of a Christian as Jesus’ call to be vigilant at all times and not to become drowsy or worn out by carousing and drunkenness or the anxieties of daily life. As resounding as John the Baptist’s call to repentance. . .
JOY: what is it, how do we get it – how do we live it in our lives? Let’s listen to a story.
A 92-year-old woman lost her husband after 70 years of marriage. On one particular day, she was moving into a nursing home – her new home after her husband’s death.
After waiting patiently for several hours in the lobby, she was told her room was ready.
She smiled sweetly. While gingerly maneuvering to her room with her walker, she was provided with a visual description of it including the curtains that had been hung on the window.
“I love it,” she said with enthusiasm.
“But Mrs. Jones, you haven’t even seen it yet,” her escort said.
“I don’t have to see it,” she said. “ Joy is something you decide on ahead of time. I have already decided to love it.”
“I make a decision every morning when I wake up,” she explained. “I have a choice: I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work --- or --- I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. “Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes are open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the joyful memories I have had – and all the ones yet to be had.”
Mrs. Jones went on: “Life is like a bank account –you withdraw from what you’ve put in. My advice to you would be to deposit a lot of joy in the bank account of memories. At 92—I am still making deposits.”
I was in Price Chopper the other day and came across a display of a train engine pulling a car behind it. A sign said: CHOOSE JOY--- and the train car was filled with white wine on sale for $8.95!!!
The ad was spot on --- Joy is a choice --- it’s just that joy cannot be found in the choice of wine or any other THING we may have bought on Black Friday.
Mrs. Jones was more on the mark – every day is a gift – and we choose to be joyful with what we have – or we are disappointed in what we don’t have.
Joy is a choice --- it is choosing to activate the gift that is already within us – one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit which St. Paul gives us in the 5th Chapter of his letter to the Galatians:
Where he says the fruits of the Spirit are: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Now don’t you think if you had a few more of those things in your life – you could feel very triumphant??
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. . .
Choose happiness --- would be a better ad for the wine and our other purchases – because happiness is based on external things ---- which can be very fleeting. . .
Joy, on the other hand, comes from within --- and is something that is more permanent – it is a choice to look at things in a different way – and to definitely appreciate the things we already have – rather than always wanting more.
Fear and worry are two things that can crush our sense of joy – and we will look at those next week – as we look at the bold proclamation of the Kingdom of God by John the Baptist. Until then, we will choose to adore Jesus in this Eucharist – and hopefully choose to leave this place a little joyful & enthusiastic. . . NOT as if we are leaving a funeral. . .
Moments in time...