The truth is that the Christmas season is unabashed about the purpose of the Christian life. “I am bringing you good news of great joy,” the angel says to the shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem about the birth of a baby in a stable there (Luke 2:10). Good news of great joy, we learn at the beginning of the liturgical year, is what searching for the baby is all about. It’s how and where we’re searching that matters.
“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times,” the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote. But that’s wrong. Happiness does not require choice some of the time. Happiness requires choice all the time. It requires learning to choose between what is real and what is fleeting, what is worthless and what is worthwhile. But that does not make the effort either impossible or unacceptable. It simply requires discrimination.
It is discrimination, the ability to choose between one good in life over another, that the liturgical year parades before our eyes over and over again, year after year, until we finally develop enough maturity of soul to tell what lasts from what pales, to discern what’s worth having from what isn’t, to know what happiness is rather than what satiety is.
Meaning, we discover, has nothing to do with what is outside of us. It has to do with what we have come to see within our souls. It has to do with the vision that is within us rather than with the things we are heaping up around us as indicators of our success, our power, our status. Joy is not about what happens to us, the manger indicates. It is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature, the quality of the lives we live.
—from The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister