Happy Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete means “rejoice,” referring to the joy that Christmas – the coming of our Lord and Savior – is near.
When I reflect on this year and this season, I can’t help but rejoice. For the first time in my life (and hopefully for the rest of my life), the joy in my heart is different from the more transient feeling of happiness. This is because the joy I’m talking about is not connected to the earthly things that I’ve always associated with happiness. My new experience of joy is different and more permanent. It sits deep within my soul, rooted in the awareness that I am connected to the eternal. That I am not alone. That I never have been alone. And that my creator wants to be my friend.
God loves us, God desires to be one with us, God is here with us. I’ve known and understood these truths for a long time, but only recently have I come to truly believe them. The closer I get to figuring out how to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, and the more I open myself up to his Love, the more this transcendent Joy grows within me.
I find great happiness in connecting with people, in sharing a laugh with someone I love, in watching my children be carefree. Great food and wine can make for a good night, and I find it exhilarating to dance to my favorite songs when no one is watching. A colorful sunrise, a hug from a friend, and a hot cup of coffee with a good book – all things that make life happy. And happiness is a good thing.
But for me, joy – true joy – is a little different. It has depth, and it is only found in my personal experience of God’s love. There is great joy in knowing that our relationships here on earth are everlasting. That in a way we don’t fully understand yet – the friend I just shared that laugh with will be my friend for all eternity. There is joy in the discovery of new ways to share God’s love with other people in my life. And there is joy in the freedom of knowing that I matter. There is joy in knowing that I was created to be uniquely who I am, with a purpose that is greater than myself. And there is joy in knowing that no matter how difficult a situation I get myself into, God will be there to lift me up and carry me to the next step.
This is joy. Crazy shout-from-the-rooftop and write-it-in-the-sky joy. Once you experience this joy, you want to share it with everyone you meet. And it is with this joy, that I celebrate and give thanks to our God this Christmas. That through the gift of his son, God saves our souls and loves us with an everlasting love. Rejoice!