The wonders of His love

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” we all know the words to this Christmas carol so very well, a classic that was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. This and so many other well-known carols play continually while we are driving, shopping or watching television, all reminding us to be joyful, as well as what this season is all about. 

This weekend’s readings, both from the Old and New Testament, remind us to rejoice and to share our joy with others. To not be afraid, for all that has bound us has been removed. We are also reminded to ask God for what we need through prayer and petition, and in His mercy and love, we will be taken care of and a peace will surround and guard our hearts in Christ Jesus. What great news! 

We are being offered and given the greatest gift of all, love! A love that goes beyond any explanation, a love that puts all else aside for our greater good; a love that dares us to love one another, to reach beyond ourselves and see others as Christ sees them. God knew we would need a visible sign of this unconditional love and He sent us the Baby Jesus, Whose simple birth reminds us that God is a loving and gentle Father. Through the Baby Jesus, He reminds us to be trusting, allowing ourselves to be gathered into His loving arms, knowing that our needs will be taken care of. What a beautiful image of a loving Father. Just the thought of a love so profound fills me with immeasurable joy, the joy that the readings and the Gospel are imploring us to embody and spread. 

What should we do? This is the very question that is asked over and over again of John the Baptist in the Gospel. You hear this question coming from the crowd that has gathered to be baptized. A crowd that included individuals from all walks of life; from tax collectors to soldiers who were despised and feared; to people who felt oppressed as well as those who were considered outcasts and everyone else in between. He instructs them all to share what they have — if you have two coats give one to a neighbor who has none; share your meal with the hungry; be kind to your enemies; reach out to the afflicted, be love itself. The message is a simple one, and one that has not changed at all over the years; look around, see beyond all the bustle of the season, and acknowledge and help those who are in need. John the Baptist was and is instructing us to love our neighbor in ways that may be foreign to us. To love our neighbor as we ourselves would want to be loved; to serve others with dignity and respect, to be the very gift of love to one another. 

The Gospel tells us that the crowd was filled with expectation: could He be the One? On this third Sunday of Advent, we begin to feel that same sense of expectation. As the 25th of December draws near, we too are filled with excitement and anticipation, as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Christ. Even if we are burdened with life’s uncertainties and sadness, our hearts still hold a flicker of joy, and sometimes the gentlest of breezes is enough to fan it into a flame. 

That day at the river John baptized with water, we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, and it is this very flame that lights the way for others. We are asked to help keep that flame alive. This is the joy that is being spoken of; this is the cause for celebrating and rejoicing. We have been filled with love, and with open hearts glowing with the love that burns brightly within, we are asked to help others step into the light of God’s love.  As we hear in the song, “Let every heart, prepare Him room and let Heaven and nature sing.” In opening our hearts to the love and joy that was promised in the words of the prophet Zephaniah, in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and through the words and actions of John the Baptist, we too are spreading the Good News, the love that God shared with us through Jesus Christ.  The final stanza of the song is what this season is all about, the “wonders of His love.”

May the joy and happiness of this holy season fill your hearts and homes with love, and may God continue to bless you and your families throughout the coming new year. 

Merry Christmas! 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

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