Isenheim Altarpiece (Mathis Grünewald, ca. 1515, oil on panel)
When Christ was born in Bethlehem, the angel of the Lord appeared in the sky over the nearby fields and addressed the shepherds: “…behold, I bring you good news of a great joy…”
When the three wise men finally saw the star of Bethlehem settle over the place where Christ and His parents were staying, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.
Three decades later, after the Last Supper and before they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spoke in veiled terms about His quickly approaching death and subsequent resurrection. He gave his beloved disciples an image to help them understand: “When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world” (Jn 16.21).
So the joy of the Resurrection is described by Jesus as being like the joy of bringing a newborn baby into the world! Perhaps, His mother had described to Him the joy she experienced when He was born. Perhaps Mary had told Him too, about the joyful message of the angel at Bethlehem and the joy of the three wise men.
The birth of a baby is an extraordinary event, one that changes many parents forever in a spiritual way as a bond of union forms naturally (and supernaturally) between parent and child. We might say that spiritual joy is a sign accompanying each child into this world, for all to experience with awe.
So too, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
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