Nativity offers opportunity to embrace joy

By Karla Luke
“Ever since Jesus entered into history, with his birth in Bethlehem, humanity has received the germ of the Kingdom of God, like the terrain that receives the seed, the promise of a future harvest. There is no need to search elsewhere! Jesus has come to bring joy to all forever. It is not merely a hoped-for joy, or a joy postponed to paradise: here on earth we are sad but in paradise we will be joyful. No! It is not this, but rather it is a joy that is already real and that can be experienced now, because Jesus Himself is our joy, and with Jesus our home is joyful.”
­— Pope Francis
Merry Christmas! As the Advent season comes to a close and the Christmas season begins, once again our faithful Creator has bestowed on us the gifts of hope, faith, joy and peace through the incarnation of His only Son Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of creation, God has constantly demonstrated His love for us by trusting us to love Him in return.
Because we sinned and fell short, God loved us enough to come down into our world to show us the way back to Him, in the person of Jesus Christ. He loved us enough to become us. This alone should fill us with immense joy. Pope Francis wrote in his  about how this joy comes into our hearts.
“A Christian is a person whose heart is filled with peace because he or she knows to place joy in the Lord even when experiencing difficult moments in life. To have faith does not mean not having difficult moments, but rather having the strength to face them knowing that we are not alone. And this is the peace God gives to His sons and daughters”.
— Pope Francis

We are called to experience the true joy of this Christmas season by being in community with others. Yes, we should visit with family and friends as our traditions dictate. However, we should also reach out to those who are forgotten, lonely, poor and imprisoned.
Our true and authentic joy does not come from receiving gifts and new material possessions, but it comes from encountering the different parts of the Body of Christ, no matter where we may find them. As our baptismal promises indicate, we are missionaries of joy and as missionaries of joy we are called to bring that same joy to all others including those who do not know Christ and those who must rediscover Christ.
So as we celebrate this Christmas season, let’s not forget, in the words of Pope Francis, that we are “the terrain that receives the seed for the promise of a future harvest.” We have received Christ, the true seed of joy. Let us plant Him within ourselves to yield a great harvest for the Kingdom of God. Be the joy of Christ to all! Merry Christmas!
(Karla Luke is the coordinator of operations and support services for the Office of Catholic Education. She is writing reflections from Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel this year.)