December 19, 2018, Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

“Joy” is the word that stands out in today’s gospel, when the angel Gabriel appears before Zechariah and tells him that, at the birth of his son John the Baptist, “you will have joy and gladness.”

This word for joy (chara) is related to the word we dug into last week when Gabriel greeted Mary, “Hail, full of grace!” The word for full of grace (kecharitōmenē) comes from the common New Testament word for grace (charis). Joy (chara) and grace (charis) are both related. The joy predicted for Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist is an experience of God’s grace, a free gift that Elizabeth also experienced during the Visitation when she “heard Mary’s greeting” and” the infant leaped in her womb” and filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit, which St. John Paul II, describes as a “small Pentecost,” because “the Virgin, who carries the Son conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in her womb, radiates grace and spiritual joy around her. It is the presence of the Spirit within her that causes Elizabeth’s son, John, destined to prepare the way for the Son of God made man, to leap with joy” (Address, May 31, 2001). John passes that same grace-filled joy to his father Zechariah, whose first words at the birth of his son is a song that begins, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,” a song that the Church still sings joyfully every morning at Lauds in the Divine Office.

May you all be filled with this same gracious joy this Christmas.