3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT: FROM WORLDLY JOY TO DIVINE JOY

divine joy

There’s always a different feeling whenever the Christmas season starts. It evokes an indescribable feeling of profound joy, excitement and longing.

Indeed, Christmas is the season of joy. It is the season of festivities: Christmas parties, eating, drinking, exchange gifts, Christmas carols, family reunions, etc. All these celebrations and rejoicing give us plenty of joys, even if fleeting, to escape and forget the pain and sorrow in life.

There is a far greater joy in Christmas, however, than all our wordly joys.  Christmas is the sublime event when God’s joy entered into our joys. In order to fully experience the joy of Christmas we need to give way to God’s joy or to elevate our joys into divine joy.  The joy of God must increase and the joy of the world must decrease. Our joys must give way to the biggest joy – the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ. As in one of my most well-loved Christmas Carols, Joy to the World!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing

This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete is Latin word for rejoice. Gaudete Sunday invites us to partake with divine joy as God became one among us. The readings for this 3rd Sunday of Advent describes for us the meaning of divine joy.

In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah prophesy about the joy when the Messiah comes:

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

In the Gospel Reading, when John the Baptist in captivity sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether Jesus is the one the Israelites have been waiting for, Jesus says they should tell John what they hear and see:

the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

Christmas is the profound event when our joys are wedded to God’s joy, as the song goes, “when heaven and nature sing.” We elevate our wordly joys into divine joy when we truly experience God’s immersion into the messiest and muddiest experiences of our humanity. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Christmas is not the time to escape and forget our pains and sorrows but rather to confront and find God in the dirtiest and messiest of our realities. Christmas is the time to experience Jesus’ liberation from our captivities and live with joy at our being released from our fears, blindness, deafness and leprosy.

The coming of the Lord is both exciting and demanding. We are all in captivity to the familiar, to our ways, to our expectations.  Jesus is changing, rearranging us, our values, our ways of seeing, listening, living. Christmas joy is the Lord Jesus Christ walking with us as we take small and steady steps in reforming our lives and transforming the world we live in.