But the joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It is caused by our finding ourselves embraced and loved by God. As the prophet Isaiah (cf. 35:1-6a, 8a, 10) reminds us, God is he who comes to save us, and give succor especially to the fearful of heart. His coming among us strengthens, solidifies, encourages, lifts up and makes the desert and plain bloom, that is, our life when it becomes arid. And when does our life become arid? This happens when it lacks the water of the Word of God and his Spirit of love. However great are our limits and our dismay, we are not permitted to be downhearted and vacillating in the face of our infirmities. On the contrary, we are invited to get a grip and straighten our weak knees, to have courage and not be afraid because our God always shows us the greatness of his mercy. He gives us the strength to go forward. He is always with us to help us go forward. He is a God who truly wants what is good for us, he loves us and so he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us and go forward. Take heart! Always forward! Thanks to his help we can always start over. How? How do we start over? Someone might say to me: “No, Father, I have done a lot of... I am a great sinner... I cannot start over!” You’re wrong! You can start over! How? Because he waits for you, he is near you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to start over! He gives it to everyone! Then we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and tears and sing a new song. And this true joy remains in times of trial too, even in suffering, because it is not a superficial joy but enters into the very depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and confides in him.
Christian joy, like hope, has its foundation in God’s fidelity, in the certainty that he always keeps his promises. The prophet Isaiah exhorts those who have lost their way and are in trouble to trust in the Lord’s fidelity because his salvation will not delay in breaking into their life. Those who have met Jesus along the way have experienced a joy that nothing and no one can take away. Jesus Christ is our joy! His faithful love is inexhaustible! Thus, when a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus. But we must not leave him to his own devices. We must pray for him, and make him feel the warmth of the community.
The Virgin Mary helps us hurry toward Bethlehem to meet the Child who is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all men. To her the Angels says: “Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). She obtains for us the joy of the Gospel in the family, at work, in the parish and everywhere. It is an intimate joy, made of wonder and tenderness. It is what a mother experiences when she looks at her newborn child, and feels that he is a gift of God, a miracle that she can only be grateful for!
They were following an Italian tradition of bringing the figurines to St. Peter's on Gaudete Sunday, so the pope can bless them before they are placed in family Nativity scenes on Christmas Eve.
This tradition has been told and illustrated through a delightful book by Amy Welborn, illustrated by Ann Engelhart, released this year by Franciscan Media, "Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing".