December 21, 2007

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Families can spread Christmas joy

Sean GallagherOn a cold, dark, drizzly winter day nearly three years ago, my wife, Cindy, gave birth to our second son, Raphael, after having felt poorly for nearly a week.

Cindy’s labor progressed quickly during our 25-minute drive to the hospital. With every bump in the road and every chuckhole we hit along the way, her pain only increased.

Raphael was born a little more than an hour after we arrived.

That evening, we welcomed grandparents and other visitors who wanted to meet the newest addition to our family for the first time. The dreary day outside and Cindy’s discomfort seemed like a distant memory.

A day that began in pain ended in a joy that we were pleased to share with others.

What happened in a dramatic way on the day of Raphael’s birth is, or at least can be, the story of most ordinary days for families.

Each day brings its own trials and tribulations: the household chores that go around on a seemingly endless cycle, kids that bicker and complain, and the simple build-up of the stress that comes with supporting a family in an ever-increasing challenging economy.

But if we look around us each day with grace-inspired eyes, we can find lots of little blessings that can help us feel real joy in the midst of the melancholy that can darken our days.

They can come in the form of an unexpected hug from a child or tasks that get done quickly when everybody pitches in to help.

More importantly, God offers us real joy when we give of ourselves to others. Perhaps it might be spending a little extra time reading to our kids or paying a visit for no special reason to an elderly neighbor.

All of these blessings can highlight our ordinary days with a joy that can be infectious.

Others that we rub shoulders with on a regular basis might eventually want to know what the source of our joy is. After all, our lives aren’t really that different from theirs.

When we live our days with joy, others will take notice and wonder why.

This is nothing less than a form of evangelization. When families live their days in natural ways with a faith-inspired joy, they are placing themselves at the forefront of the Church’s mission of evangelization.

The template for this was set for us in the very beginning.

On that first Christmas 2,000 years ago, Joseph and Mary were having a hard day. When it came time for Mary to give birth to Jesus, she and Joseph were far away from home and the friends and loved ones they probably hoped would help them.

Now the accounts of the birth of Jesus given to us by St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us little about the reaction of Mary and Joseph to the event.

But the shepherds received “news of great joy” from an angel (Lk 2:10) about Jesus’ birth and the magi “were overjoyed” when they saw the star come to rest over where the Christ child was (Mt 2:9-11).

Surely it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that this joyous impression was confirmed in these visitors by the joy that surely was suffused on the faces of Joseph and Mary.

The work of evangelization began on the first Christmas long ago. Families today can continue it today by living out Christmas joy year-round. †

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