After the major calamity known as typhoon Yolanda/ Haiyan in 2013, people admirably gave up their Christmas parties and toned down their decorations, celebrations and other expenditures. Instead, they willingly donated money and goods to the needy victims.  As Christmas approached, there was a question: Is there sense in commemorating Christmas? Should we still celebrate?
A wise priest gave this response to the press: Forego Christmas party, but please celebrate Christmas. In other words, go for the simple, go for the less but by all means, rejoice and be glad! In the midst of any crisis, Christmas is always good news. Nothing can hinder the coming of the Lord’s gift, his only Son.
In this season, it is good to discover the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is a delight over sensory thing – material things and people you like or love. Notice that when these things are taken away or when these people go, many of us experience sadness, emptiness and despair.
But joy is different.  Joy is the fruit of deep-seated connection with God.  Joy comes from relationship with God. It is his gift to his children. Although in common language we tend to think of joy as a fleeting feeling, it is actually more than that.
A more important characteristic of joy is that it can co-exist with pain and suffering.  Happiness vanishes when the material or physical object is lost. But joy continues even if there is no material prop and even when suffering is felt. Why? Because the true object of joy is God and the soul is at peace knowing that God is inside the person’s heart.
The gospel speaks of John in prison and Jesus explains the greatness of John.  John in knowing that he has met the Lord and pointed people to him, is confident and joyful, peaceful and resigned, even in the harshness of prison. No one can take away the joy of God’s servant and prophet.
I remember that after the typhoon Yolanda, foreign journalists and aid workers poured into our country. There was much anguish over the deaths, loss, and destruction. But there was something they all noticed.  Even in pain, our people easily smiled and said thank you. They knew how to laugh and encourage one another.  They were ready to receive others into their own experiences of poverty.  We are a joyful people!
Do you think you cannot celebrate Christmas because you have a problem or have encountered a great difficulty? Realize this, that Christmas is not about material things or the absence of challenges. It is all about the coming of God’s Son into our lives to share all our joys and pains, to be with us, to be in relationship with us.
Let us ask the Lord for the deeper gift of joy as the season of Christmas fast approaches. Let us give thanks to the Lord that we are in relationship with him.