Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Jesu, Joy of Man’s DesiringFor Sunday, December 17, 2017
Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 60:1-2A, 10-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

No other season of the year has inspired as much music as the Christmas season has. From Thanksgiving Day on, travelers and shoppers are serenaded with carols both new and old in shopping centers, airports and restaurants. Many radio stations dedicate 24 hours of programming to Christmas music.

This loop of Christmas music includes not only classic holiday favorites such as Bing Crosby’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas or Burl Ives’ Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, but to more contemporary songs such as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You and Wham’s Last Christmas. And younger musicians continue to release new holiday albums in hopes of scoring the next Christmas classic.

As Christians, we can find it ironic, if not sad, that all the Christmas festivities around us focus on everything else except Jesus, the person whose birth the day celebrates. This is particularly true of contemporary Christmas music.

However, if we look beneath the surface of our secular Christmas celebrations, we will find the irrepressible desires of the human heart for unending peace, heartfelt joy, and unconditional love. At the same time, we find a lingering sadness that all those desires are just beyond our reach.

Consider Stevie Wonder’s beautiful song, Someday at Christmas:

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a Man
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Are not the aspirations voiced in these stirring lyrics answered for us in this Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah?

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
To heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the Lord.

Consider also another Christmas classic, Dr. Seuss’s poem How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Our green friend’s conversion happens when, despite his efforts to ruin the Whovillian’s celebration by stealing their presents and decorations, they still gather to welcome Christmas day, causing him to exclaim:

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Unfortunately, Dr. Seuss does not tell us what that “little bit more” might be. As Christians we are blessed to know the answer. It is Jesus.

In this Sunday’s gospel, John the Baptist points away from himself to the One who is in their midst whom they still have not seen. What better analogy could we find for our current situation as believers? It is precisely our mission to point out Jesus, who alone can grant us the unending peace, heartfelt joy, and unconditional love our hearts long. Those things which we have failed to find in “ribbons, tags, packages, boxes or bags”. Though it goes unsaid, Jesus is the “little bit more” Christmas is about. And it is only by welcoming Him into our lives and into our world that the aspirations of the human heart can be fully realized.

Douglas Sousa, STL


O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel
To Thee shall come Emmanuel

O come desire of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid though our sad divisions cease
And be for us the King of Peace

Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel
To Thee shall come Emmanuel

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