Cardinal Vincent Nichols teaches us that Advent and Christmastide is a wonderful time to discover the joy of sharing our faith because at the heart of the season is the proclamation of the Good News.
It is a beautiful time to explore what it means to proclaim, witness and live the gospel in such a way that we become the joy-filled and Spirit-filled evangelisers God is calling us to be.
The angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem, ‘Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people.’ (Luke 2:10).
The gospel is first and foremost a message of ‘Good News’ – this message, this initial proclamation, is called the kerygma. This Greek word literally means ‘to cry or proclaim as a herald.’ But what message do we cry and what word do we proclaim? Pope Francis says this is the kerygma:
‘Jesus Christ loves you: he gave his life for you; and he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’
This proclamation is the first message of the Good News and has the power to change and transform our lives. We return to it constantly, for it is the necessary foundation of all we do.
Of course, being an evangeliser, sharing and witnessing to our faith is complex and challenging and involves many elements. However, nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and filled with wisdom than this initial proclamation of the gospel.
All evangelisers are really on a journey of conversion, first their own, and secondly, to encourage others to know the joy of knowing Christ. This means coming to know God as the Blessed Trinity, following the way of beauty, growing in love of the sacraments, learning more about the deep truths of our faith (mystagogia) and living a life in the power of the Holy Spirit. These are our themes for Advent.
The Holy Spirit will give us the courage, the strength and the wisdom to share our faith and witness to others. Pope Francis wrote Evangelii Gaudium very much in the same spirit as Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. Both are a meditation on our call to evangelise.
Pope Francis is calling us to be Spirit-filled and joy-filled evangelisers. An evangeliser is one who has been sent to share, witness or testify to the Good News.
We do this first by proclaiming the kerygma which is the message of God’s saving love. The kerygma has the power to change and transform people’s lives.
We have printed the basic kerygma message and the Christmas kerygma message on page 17 and 18. When we get alongside others, accompany them and show them solidarity and friendship, then we can gently share our faith.
Do not be afraid in sharing this winning and attractive message of God’s love. ‘Jesus Christ loves you: he gave his life for you; and he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’
The Christmas kerygma reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.‘God sent his Son Jesus, born of the Virgin. Born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He died on the cross for us. Raised from the dead he sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always.’
In setting out together to discover the power of the kerygma, we are drawn into the life of the Blessed Trinity. The way of beauty attracts us to Christ and through immersing ourselves in the deep truths of faith (mystagogia) we become the joyful evangelisers God intends us to be.
The Old Testament books pointed to the time of the Messiah as a time abounding and overflowing with joy.
The prophet Isaiah saw in the coming of the Messiah a time of great joy and deep happiness.
‘You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy.’ (Isaiah 9:3). He encouraged this deep joy in the Lord, ‘Shout aloud and sing for joy.’ (Isaiah 12:6). The joy of the gospel, the coming of the Saviour, was beginning to filter through the ministry of these prophets.
‘The Lord your God is in your midst as a warrior who gives you victory. He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love.’ (Zephaniah 3:14).
Joy is a grace and privilege of our baptism. If we know this joy it can increase within us. If we don’t know this joy or it is absent from our lives, it can be recovered.
As the sage said many centuries ago: ‘My child treat yourself well according to your means. Don’t deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment.’ (Sirach 14:11, 14). Joy is infectious, winning and attractive and it is this joy of the Gospel that we can know during the Advent season.
This joy isn’t shallow, superficial or facile nor is it like shifting sand blowing in the wind. It is rather the gift of the Holy Spirit, a grace from God, poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5).