The Joy of Christmas
This Christmas reflection from Sandie Cornish was written for the CatholicCare Sydney newsletter. Merry Christmas to all our readers!
Pope Francis has given us an early Christmas present – his first major teaching document, the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World). The Latin name comes from the first two words of the document which refer to the joy of the Gospel. It is very timely as we prepare to celebrate the joy of Christmas.
Of course, Christmas is not a joyful time for everyone! It is a peak time for loneliness, depression, relationship breakups and financial stress. It is a hard time for those who have lost someone, whether recently or some time ago. It is a time when the poor and marginalised can feel all the more excluded from the good things of society. And that is not how Christmas should be because the core message of the Christmas story is that God became one of us. Everything that is human, and every human being is important. As Pope Francis says, “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.” (n 23) CatholicCare works to uphold the dignity of each person, to promote their well-being and inclusion in society, and to be with them in their struggles. In this sense, the work of CatholicCare is Christmas all year round.
Maybe you are not comfortable with the idea of being an evangeliser. Pope Francis is not just asking us to proclaim the word of God, but to do the word of God, and to be the heart of God in every dimension of existence. “To evangelise is to make the kingdom of God present in the world.” (n 176) We are evangelisers when we get involved in people’s lives, touch their suffering, and accompany them “standing by people every step of the way” (n 24). Every Christian, Church community and Catholic organisation “is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society” (n 187) This also means working for structural change to address the causes of poverty and marginalisation (n 188).
This work is our duty but it is not a chore – it is a joy. I’m sure you experience this when you see hope being born in the lives of people touched by CatholicCare programs. And each year at Christmas joy and hope and peace are born, even amidst the muck of the stable.