By Michael Huynh

As we move towards the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the days get shorter and we long for more daylight. In the darkest time of the year, we are reminded of the preciousness of light. It is not only our bodies that long for physical light, but also our beings long for spiritual light. We all long for the light of Christ—the love, hope and JOY that can only come from God.

The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday; the word Gaudete means rejoicing. We are reminded of the true meaning and joy of Christmas. It is easy to become swallowed up by the way the world sometimes perceives Christmas and forget to focus on the true joy of Christmas. We can get caught up in the whirlwind of consumerism and materialism. We can miss the opportunity to focus on fully welcoming Jesus into our midst, allowing him to enter our hearts.

Our life circumstances do not determine our joy; the presence of Christ in our lives calls us to it.Our faith reminds us that our journeys are not devoid of hardships, pain and loss.  If we think real joy is the absence of hardships, pain and loss we are looking for joy in the wrong place. The world wants to convince us that if we “buy this gift” or “avoid life’s challenges” that we will be happy.

I believe we all want to find real joy in our lives. It is probably the one thing we all have in common. I have found three common themes that have helped me to find true joy in my life.

The first path to finding joy is gratitude. You’ll never be happy unless you are grateful for what you have. One practice could be to end every day sharing with others or journaling about what we are most grateful for. How do I acknowledge my gratitude to God and others? What am I most grateful for in this moment?

The second way to find joy is to build an authentic community. We all long for community and belonging. Research highlights that having good healthy relationships is a key to real joy and happiness. How do we build and nurture meaningful relationships in our lives? What relationships do I want to nurture?

The third opportunity to experience joy is serving others, giving of oneself. Jesus taught us this in everything he did. He lovingly washed the feet of his Apostles and modeled for us that in serving others we find joy. How can I serve others? What am I being called to do to model Jesus’s example of loving service?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux said: “Real happiness will come not in gratifying our desires or in gaining pleasures, but in accomplishing God’s will for us.”

What is God’s will for me as I seek the joy of Advent out in my life?

Michael Huynh is the Director of Campus Ministry at the Hall Newman Center serving SUNY Oswego. He is also the Associate Director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Syracuse.

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