by Ken Rolheiser
Joy to the World in January

In December I was taking communion to a shut-in. I rang the doorbell and knocked. There was no answer. I thought of Jesus standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. I felt a little like Jesus who truly brings the gift of eternal life with him.

Another Christmas has passed, and I fear too many of us stood outside the creche and looked in. The joy of salvation can reach even the worst sinners. I don’t want to name names, but Herod comes to mind for slaying the infants. 

We are all called to a personal relationship with the Lord. The angels at Bethlehem invite us: “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.” (Luke 2:10). 

“Joy by definition is the gladness, the satisfaction that appears when our will possesses something which leads to our genuine happiness. Joy is the response of the human heart to what it perceives as an authentic promise of life. And Christ’s Presence is just that,” says Fr. Peter John Cameron. 

“This [Joy] is Satan’s only real enemy: Take it seriously,” Cameron says. The devil manipulates us with fear. Fear is only possible because [or when] we have lost the joy of The Promise that anchors us as Christians.

“The source of Christian joy,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI, “is the certainty of being loved by God, loved personally by our Creator, by the One who loves each one of us with a passionate and faithful love, a love greater than our infidelities and sins, a love which forgives.” Wow!

Jesus has overcome blindness, lameness, leprosy, deafness, and death itself, giving us the joy of Hope. “If there is an answer to death, it will make genuine joy possible.” (J. Ratzinger).

Joy can exist even in our sadness and pain. Keeping our eyes fixed on the Joy of Christmas can help us avoid fear, the devil’s greatest weapon. From the darkness of his Nazi prison cell Jesuit Fr. Alfred Delp proclaimed his message of hope on smuggled slips of paper: 

“The promises have turned us around and opened life out into the infinite. Even lamentation retains the song of these promises, and distress their sound, and loneliness their confidence,” Delp wrote.

We have lessons about joy from even the most commercial sources. Canadian carrier WestJet provided joy for 250 passengers on a flight from Halifax to Calgary. They posted a digital Santa Claus in an airport and asked passengers what they wanted for Christmas. 

Most passengers requested basic items like mugs and sweaters. Others asked for more expensive gifts. It was difficult, but while passengers flew, members of WestJet purchased all items the passengers requested. When they landed, every single person received their Christmas gift.

What a simple way to bring Christ’s joy to others. In a recent visit to Superstore, an older (than me) lady was looking for a shorter cashier line-up. I offered her the place ahead of my cart. As we waited, I wished her a Merry Christmas and we chatted.

As the day light of January lengthens and spreads, “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

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