Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! — Philippians 4:4
The reason for this great joy to which Saint Paul exhorts us is clear enough: The Lord is at hand, and God has visited His people.
Authentic Christian joy may seem paradoxical to those without faith, since it endures through trials and sufferings. For the one who is faithful, there is no sorrow that cannot be alleviated in Christ. Joy can in fact flourish despite trying circumstances and seemingly overwhelming difficulties. Writing from prison in his Letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul demonstrates true Christian joy, even as he faces his own death. We of course see this throughout the letters of St. Paul:
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
The Nativity of Our Lord brings us great joy, as it did those who first joined the Holy Family in celebrating the newborn King: Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them (Luke 2:20). Joy is to know Jesus, whereas unhappiness is the consequence of losing Him through sin and disobedience.
The nearness of God in Christ Jesus brings true justice and peace. Only He can give these gifts and preserve them: for I give you a peace the world cannot give. It is this nearness that causes John the Baptist to leap for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth: And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1: 43-44).
The widespread attacks against family and life show the consequences of misplaced happiness, or what follows when happiness is disconnected from what is true and good. When the great gift of human sexuality is distorted, when its nature as gift is hidden by an attitude of use, many are turned away from God and the joy of His presence. Once this great lie of the Sexual Revolution sets in, ever-more lies and coercions are needed to hide the truth, evident now in the collapse of the medical field, required sex miseducation in schools, the grotesque judicial redefinition of marriage, and other tragic and destructive absurdities. This contrived vision of man alienates him from his transcendent dignity and turns him towards what is meaningless and transitory. This vision leads to a utilitarian and individualistic approach to life with one’s identity being defined by profit, pleasure and power.
When one attempts to discover joy, justice, peace and love along the paths that lead away from God, all he finds is sorrow. Pro-lifers know this story all too well. We hear it from those who have been deceived by the Culture of Death and its architect, the great deceiver and murderer.
Our Lord from the beginning faced a hostile world: He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him (John 1:11). Many failed to see the Messiah, a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and born in a manger. As in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Christ was invisible to the worldly.
The Holy Light emanating from the star over the crèche came to cast out the darkness and restore hope in God’s plan for humanity.
There is no doubt that the New Year will present us with great challenges, but the Gift we receive again in this Holy Season sparks within our soul a profound gratitude for our dignity as brothers and sisters of the King. As with the shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph, it is Christ Who causes our joy: Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (John 16:22).
The joy radiating from Saint Paul’s exhortation is both a foretaste of Heaven and a blessing for the faithful here in the present. May we live this joy throughout the New Year and, in cooperation with divine grace, assist in building a Culture of Life.
Please join me throughout the Holy Season praying for the protection of life from conception to its natural end. Let us remember in prayer and be as present as we possibly can to the poor, orphans, the homeless, the weak, the sick, the elderly, the persecuted and the dying.
On behalf of HLI’s global pro-life family, I wish you and yours and very Blessed and Merry Christmas!