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The third week of Advent begins with Gaudate Sunday. The theme is joy and so we light the rose-colored candle.
The birth of the Christ child is joyful news. In the Gospel of Luke the angel’s announcement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus highlights the joyful nature of the event. The angel says: “Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.” (Lk 2:9)
That God should look with compassion on creation and enter the drama of human history, sharing our humanity, and reconciling all to God is indeed good news. It is good news not just for the good or the righteous – it is a joy to be shared by the whole people.
The Kingdom that this child Jesus will announce restores wholeness and harmony. It is a call to right relationships between people, between peoples, with creation, and with God. Everybody is included. In our nativity scenes, the poor shepherds who did manual work on the edges of the community, the wise ones who were able to travel and could afford to bring expensive gifts, and the animals whose shelter the Holy Family shared, are all there. The poor and the ignorant, the wealthy and the wise, the beasts of the fields are gathered in recognition of the Christ child.
Pope Francis believes that at this point in history we need to remember the joy of the Gospel. His Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – which in English translates as the joy of the Gospel – reminds us to share the joyful news of God’s merciful love for the whole of creation. For Francis, God is not some kind of cosmic account keeper, keeping naughty and nice lists, but a lover who longs for us to respond in love and to make God’s love present in the world. Pope Francis says: “To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world … if this dimension is not properly brought out, there is a constant risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelization” (EG n 176).
The angels in Luke’s Gospel announce that the child the shepherds will find in a manger is Christ the Lord. Jesus is the Lord of history and the Kingdom that he will announce is God’s reign of justice, love and peace. God invites us to participate in making this reign present on earth as it is in heaven. This indeed is a joy to be shared by the whole people.