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Have you ever tried to pick the perfect gift for someone? You just wanted to bless them in such a beautiful way and you were praying for how to do that? I can imagine that all of us have been in that situation before.
God has given us the most incredible gift of Joy through the birth of His son Jesus. It is this joy that unites families and strengthens marriages. Scripture tells us in John 16:24, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
It was the spring of 2001. Our wedding was just months away and we were meeting with Fr. Dave Pivonka to go over the specifics of our wedding. I listened as Father told us that we could look through this book that would help us pick out the readings and the responsorial psalm.
My fiancé was a theology/philosophy major and had already been dissecting the Mass and how to catechize our family and friends through Scripture. As a music ministry cantor, I couldn’t wait to pick all the beautiful worship songs that our Franciscan friends would be singing.
We wanted our family and friends to see the joy that we knew God was offering us in each other.
These words taken from Psalm 16:11 would be sung over the congregation in our responsorial psalm: “You will show me the path of life, you my hope and my shelter, in your presence there is endless joy; at your side is my home forever.”
This line was what we wanted for our marriage. Endless joy in the presence of the Lord.
I remember Father said “You actually can pick any readings that you would like. I just need to know what to preach on after the Gospel.”
Dan and I had had long conversations about our Mass. We wanted our friends and family to experience the joy that the Lord was giving us in each other. We had already talked about the theme of our wedding being “joy.”
I turned to Fr. Dave and said “How about the Nativity? Have you ever talked about the birth of Jesus at a wedding? I can’t think of a greater joy than the birth of our Savior.”
“It definitely will be a first,” he said, and then continued with “I think it will be great. We can talk about the greatest joy being the birth of the Savior, and then I will talk about marriage and the joy of coming together to serve the Lord as a family.
So on June 11, 2001, we started the first day of our lives together as husband and wife with honoring the joy of the Holy Family and looking to their family as a model for our home.
Our marriage started with contemplating the wonder and awe of the King of all Kings coming to earth in the form of a tiny baby, for you and me.
A tiny, vulnerable, defenseless baby.
Not the warrior King that the Israelites were awaiting. A different type of Savior than they expected. The Nativity reminds us that our plans are not always what the Lord has in store for us. However, His plans are perfect.
Our “fiat”, our “yes” to His plans allow us to cooperate in an amazing journey of faith.
God chose for Jesus to be born into the mess of a manager. Not amongst the royalty becoming of a King but among the simplicity of shepherds. His coming was not announced to the elite by trumpet blasts and horns, but sung by angels to those whose humble hearts were open to His message.
Jesus comes to us in our mess. Just like He came to the messiness of the stable, He comes knocking at the door of your messy heart. He wants to come to you where you are right now. What is the messiness of your life that you don’t want Christ to see? How is He asking you to make yourself welcoming to Him?
He wants to dwell within you.
Maybe Mary and Joseph felt inadequate in their roles of raising the Christ child. Maybe they felt unable to offer the King of Kings what they felt He should deserve.
These holy parents teach us that they could only offer what they had. The simplicity of their life. Their “yes” to raising this Christ child with grace and God’s plan as their focus.
The greatest gift of joy that this world could receive would grow up in their home. The grace of His life would spread.The lessons of humility, authority, and purity of intention would permeate their home. They would be forever changed by their son.
Their joy would be full.
Ultimately, we knew that our family would need Christ at the center and at the heart of our home to experience this same fullness of joy.
However, there have been plenty of times in our marriage when we have not always felt the joy that we know Christ brings. We have allowed struggles and hardships to overwhelm us. We have tried to bear our burdens and struggles on our own without the grace and wisdom that the Holy Spirit can give us.
We can look to the humble workings of the carpenter St. Joseph, and see how He allowed the Lord’s plan to unfold over his life. We can see the protection and security that he offered Baby Jesus and ask for His intercession in trusting God’s plan over our own life.
We can look to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary and still see that even through her suffering she was able to witness and attest to the glory of God’s plan through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Their joy was always full.
They model for us the words of the psalm: “ You will show me the path of life, you my hope and my shelter, in your presence there is endless joy; at your side is my home forever.”
In this season of Christmas, may we look to invite the Christ child into our own hearts. Let us allow Him into the messiness of our lives. Let us allow ourselves the Joy of a life lived with Him and in Him.