For Christmas, open your heart and find joy


Matthew Montag - Contributing columnist



As we approach yet another Christmas season, we are likely beginning to wonder, “What am I going to get for Christmas?”

Whether it’s a loved one, a friend, or something we plan to buy for ourselves, there’s likely something big on our wish list.

What if I told you that God also wants to get you a gift for Christmas? What would you think about that? Does that mean he wants to buy you that new car, or new bow, or new game system?

Maybe … but he also has something better. Whether or not God wants to get you whatever is top on your wish list, there is one gift he wants to give each and every one of us, the gift of himself.

Yes, the God and creator of the universe. The All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and All-Loving God, wants to give himself totally and completely to each and every human person.

The God who needs nothing in and of himself, desires to have an intimate and transforming relationship with each and every soul he’s created. He desires to give this gift to you.

But why would God want to do this? The answer is simple, he created us to be in a loving, joyful, and intimate relationship with him. Scripture describes it as being filled with a joy that is indescribable and glorious.” (1 Peter 1:8)

This indescribable and glorious joy is not simply a fleeting emotion that we might experience from getting that top thing on our Christmas list. These are not bad, in and of themselves, but God desires to give us something better, namely himself who is love (1 John 4:16).

Experiencing this divine love is what gives birth to this joy. And this joy is not meant to be fleeting, rather God desires that his “joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

St. Augustine was a Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in the 4th and 5th centuries who himself experienced this love. Previous to his conversion to Christianity he had lived a life full of debauchery and ambition. This left him in a place of searching. Searching for something more to life.

He eventually found it in the God of the universe, thanks in large part to the prayers of his mother, St. Monica.

St. Augustine would later go on to write his spiritual autobiography, The Confessions of St. Augustine. In it, St. Augustine outlines his newfound insight after experiencing the love of God poured out in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) St. Augustine writes, “Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You — man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that You resist the proud, — yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (Bk 1, ch1)

After trying to find joy in all the wrong places, he opened his heart to Christ and found joy, and his joy was complete

Two recent Catholic Popes have made similar comments.

When addressing young people at a prayer vigil before the 15th World Youth Day, John Paul II writes, “It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you…it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise…” John Paul II is pointing to Christ as the only one who ultimately fulfills the deepest longings of our heart.

Benedict XVI makes a similar remark when he writes, “Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God.” (Spe Salvi, 33)

Both of these Pontiffs are directing their spiritual children to stop looking for their ultimate fulfillment in the things of this world, rather to look higher, to the things of heaven.

As we move towards Christmas let’s rediscover once again the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus came into the world so that he could redeem us from our sins and bring us into an intimate and eternal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ.

As we move toward Christmas I invite all of you to ask God to give you this great gift!

Matthew Montag is Seminarian Intern at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Wilmington.

This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association (WAMA).

Matthew Montag

Contributing columnist