Our joy in the knowledge that God draws near we can experience the nearness of God today through the nearness of others, through the beauty of the created world, through prayer and reflection, through the comfort of silence, and through celebration and rejoicing. In fact anything – any person, place, thing, event, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell – can help us to experience the love of God and feel joyful. To appreciate anything in its depth is to see it as revelatory of God.
Advent is a penitential season of prayer, repentance and preparation for Christ’s second coming. However, as we approach Christmas the wonder is of a ‘CHILD born in Bethlehem’. What better witnesses to the joy of Christmas than children themselves? Visiting a crib with children can help us to see again, with new eyes, the nearness of Christ Child. Looking at the crib in our churches, what they notice, the questions they ask and how they react to the empty manger or the animals sharing living space with humans can be revelatory.
During my visits to our schools, I ask questions to our tiny-tots what Christmas means to them; and their an-swers would be about Santa, gifts, decorations, sweets and presents. The commercialization of Christmas and the excessive emphasis on material gifts, the frank enjoyment of the presents received by the children can steal the real meaning of Christmas. Often children speak about Santa’s coming and presenting them a gift and not about Jesus ‘THE GIFT’. Certainly material things can cloud the nearness of God but, at the same time, the childlike love which delights in presents can often be a warm, infectious reminder of the love of God. It is inspiring to notice the true joy in children unwrapping presents.
As we celebrate ‘Rejoice Sunday’, I would like to stress on the importance of this Sunday by quoting Holy Fa-ther Pope Francis who comments by giving us a ‘three-step’ recipe for making sure we can live the birth of the Christ Child with joy. First, he said: “To have this joy in preparation for Christmas… pray: ‘Lord, may I live this Christmas with true joy.’ Not with the joy of consumerism which brings us to Dec. 24 full of anguish be-cause ‘ah, I’m lacking this, I’m lacking that …’ No, this isn’t God’s joy. Pray.” Second, he said: “is render thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, he continued, is to think “how I can go to others, to those who have difficulties, problems” and “where I can go to bring some relief, peace to those who suffer.”(http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/)
A proximate preparation for the birth Christ Child is a challenge we all might take on this Sunday: to spend as much time in spiritual preparation for Christmas as we do in physical preparation and experience that joy from within.
Fr. Jacob Alvares, SAC.