“The Church is a house of joy.”
— Pope Francis, Angelus message, Dec. 15, 2013
Third Sunday of Advent
Readings for this week
Is 61:1-2a,10-11 | Lk 1:46-50,53-54 | 1 Thes 5:16-24 | Jn 1:6-8,19-28
Ideas for Glorious Joy
A Prayer for Joy
Angels on high
One of the reasons Pope Francis is so admired around the world is because of his constant joy. By his words and his example, he tells us the Church should be a place of joy. It follows that we, as members of the Church, should also be people of joy. The angels who hover over the manger came to bring joy. As Luke writes, “Do not be afraid: for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy.” Are our lives too noisy to hear the joyful song of the angels? Are we too busy to look up and see them singing in the night?
Even if we are not yet feeling all the joy of Christmas, we can still give the gift of joy to others. The beauty of the angels was not so much in that they were joyful themselves, but that they brought joyful tidings to the world. For a Christian, this should be a time to bring as much joy as possible to as many people as possible. “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem,” writes Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium.
Ideas for Glorious Joy
* Look how Pope Francis spreads joy with a smile, a hug or a warm word. We can give that same gift of joy to every person we meet this Advent. If we just make an extra effort to be kind, complimentary, caring or appreciative to the overworked, overtired retail employees, the frazzled co-workers in the elevator, the surly aid in the nursing home or the lonely person in our parish, we can help them feel joy. Every person we meet has some goodness in them. If we can find it and remind them of it, we can give them joy. And surprisingly, we will feel our own joy in making someone else feel good. Best of all, it does not cost a thing!
* Take time to be grateful. In the second reading for the third week of Advent, St. Paul gives us a formula for Christian living: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks ...” Joy flows naturally into our lives when we take time to pray and be grateful. When we are caught up in the busy commercial aspects of Christmas, we may not feel much like rejoicing, praying or giving thanks. Yet, if we follow St. Paul’s advice to give prayerful thanks to God, we will discover we have many reasons for rejoicing.
* End each Advent night by writing a simple thank-you prayer of gratitude to God. This is a wonderful way to remind ourselves of all the blessings and joys we have in our lives. We realize we already have more than enough for which to thank God.
* Families can make it an Advent tradition to go around the table at dinner and have each member name something for which they are grateful that day. Cultivating gratitude is an important way to balance the envy that can be created by the endless advertising at this time of the year.
* Music and song can be sources of great joy. Surround yourself with the beautiful music of Christmas. Plan a Christmas caroling party. Let your friends and neighbors hear you sing out the joy of Christ’s birth — even if your voice is not exactly angelic.
* We can scatter joy in fun and anonymous ways by leaving little gifts for friends and strangers. Make sure your gift includes a message of Christmas joy such as, “Wishing you the joy of the Christ Child’s birth.” Simple ways to leave joy might be:
• Hiding little angel ornaments on the Christmas trees or in the homes of people you visit.
• Leaving surprise packages of candy on the desks of co-workers.
• Paying for the food for the car behind us in a drive-thru line.
• Leaving an anonymous gift on the doorstep of a new or lonely neighbor.
• Sending flowers to someone who may not be feeling joyful this Christmas.
Start of Advent • Week 1 • Week 2 • Week 3 • Week 4
Download the PDF of all four weeks' reflections, prayers and helpful ideas.