Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB – December 21st
The finals are over, and most of us are headed home with hearts finally free of burden to fully participate in Christmas and New Year festivities. Various Christmas songs and wintry lights greet us from almost every store front, lifting our spirits despite the increasing cold. Our hearts anticipate the aroma of freshly baked-cookies, the sweet taste of hot chocolate, the warmth of toasty fireplaces, and the friendly hugs and kisses that our family and friends are sure to give us. Yes, we are happy. Our hearts are content, and we are delighted for what is to come. We are, in fact, joyful.
As I was reading the scriptures for today, I was taken aback by the palpable joy illustrated in them. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby—future John the Baptist—“leaped in her womb . . . for joy” (Lk 1:41, 44). Imagine that. Here is a baby, not even yet born, so full of joy for the Lord and Savior who has come to this world that it leaps in its mother’s womb. I did not know that leaping was something that a baby could do in a mother’s womb.
This beautiful moment of encounter brought me back to a precious moment from my summer. I was in South Africa for a month-long summer mission trip with Cru. There, we partnered with the Mamelodi Initiative, a locally run non-profit organization that seeks to transform the Mamelodi Township in the wake of Apartheid by empowering the youth through additional year-round academic opportunities outside of regular classes.
I was there as a volunteer teacher for mathematics, but even more to witness the gospel to the students and the fellow South African volunteer teachers. During my stay there, the middle and high school students told me stories of their own lives that I cannot even begin to imagine having to deal with even as a 20 year-old, of so much brokenness that I do not know how to repeat. And my heart broke for them. But there was nothing in my power that could make their lives better long term—except for the hope the good news brings to those who believe it.
One of the most eye-opening encounters I had during that time was with a girl named Promise. She came up to me one day on our short walk to the classrooms, took one of my hands and started chattering away at me. I had no idea who she was—she was not in my class and I had not seen her before. But she had an adorable smile, a sweet heart and an innocent soul. And I just knew I had to talk to her about who Jesus was, and we made a promise to meet up for lunch before we went to our respective classrooms.
That day during the 30-minute lunch break, Promise came to Christ. I had tears in my eyes by the end of our prayer, and she beamed a huge smile and thanked me. My heart still quivers at the thought of that moment. It was raw and sincere, and it was beautiful.
What came afterwards was even more powerful than this exchange itself. When we came back from the weekend, she flew down the hallway to jump on me for a hug. Still dangling from my arms, she smiled her big, bright smile and told me that she had shared what I had shared with her with four of her friends. The joy that was glowing from her was one that I had not seen or felt before—or perhaps, I had forgotten about for a long, long time.
It was sad for me to notice that one of the first thoughts that occurred to me in that moment was this: “How can she be so joyful about this?” Then the following realization felt like a wake-up call: “But that’s how I should be about this too.” I was struck dumb by how immune I had become to the gospel I proclaim as my own faith.
This good news of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be the driving force of our joy, of all of our days and relationships with others—to share the perfect love that God has demonstrated to us. Yet let me face it: it has not been that way for me for most of my life, and I regret the numerous—who knows? Maybe hundreds of thousands—opportunities missed because I have not been in tune with the Holy Spirit and have not been full of the joy and thankfulness for the salvation I have received.
Too many times, my joy has not come from Christ Jesus. And the time is ripe for that to change. But I wonder . . . where does your joy come from?
Helen Kim ’18 is a junior in Kirkland House. She is studying for a joint concentration in Environmental Science and Public Policy and Sociology.