Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve: Be Joyful!

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.” Lk. 1:67

For those who pray the Divine Office, this is a well known sentiment. It's the beginning of the Canticle of Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father. I love this piece of scripture as it is an exhortation of pure joy. It is the encapsulation of so much joy: the joy of being a new father, the joy of the coming Messiah, and the great joy of a father already knowing that his son is destined for greatness in the eyes of God.

How often do we recognize moments to be joyful in our lives?

At this moment I'm in the depths of planning a wedding, which for many is a bit of an experience of desolation. Who cares what color napkins we use? Why do we have to have so many options for food? Band vs. DJ? It's all overwhelming, and especially frustrating to do from afar. And, yet, the joy of the life that is to come after the wedding day is what drives me. It gives me life, understanding, and most of all, patience. Joy, frankly, is a powerful thing.

I’m certain that Zechariah had no idea how his son’s greatness would unfold. He could not foresee his son wearing shoddy clothing, eating locusts and honey, and living in the desert. He most certainly did not anticipate his son’s beheading at the hands of King Herod’s son. However, even if he had, I believe the joy of what was to come would have been still greater that the suffering necessary to get there.

We all have opportunities for joy in our lives, but we often forget that joy is not synonymous with happiness. The anxiety and frustration that comes with planning a wedding should not cloud the joy at the center of what is being celebrated. At the same time, we should also remember that joy is sometimes accompanied by suffering. The Christmas that we celebrate tomorrow is soon followed by Lent and the remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death.

In this holiday season, am I getting bogged down by the minutiae of life?
Have I taken time to experience the joy of my life, however small it may be?
In times of darkness and desolation, what joy can I hold on to that reminds me of God’s presence in my life?

Matt Keppel

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