The free dictionary defines gladness as a condition of supreme well-being. We all have moments of supreme well-being – sitting at Sunday dinner surrounded by family laughing and talking while enjoying a good meal or standing in a sun-drenched field admiring the vivid colors of flowers and the smell of concord grapes or warm hands in the middle of winter covered by soft beautiful wool. These moments can be fleeting as distractions or the uncertainty of life takes over. We may even feel like we are on the roller coaster of life navigating the joys and the challenges, the ups, and downs.
A search for the word gladness in the New Revised Standard Translation of the Bible reveals 65 entries. Most of the time, gladness shows up attached to joy. It’s joy and gladness together. Add joy to the idea of well-being and we have found the perfect state.
The angel told Zechariah that he would have joy and gladness at the birth of his son John the Baptist because John would be filled with the Holy Spirit at birth. (Luke 1: 13-15) We have this same experience at the birth of Jesus.
Christmas issues the most compelling invitation, O Come all ye faithful. We aren’t just invited to join in, we are told to be joyful and triumphant as we behold the love that came down at Christmas. This pivotal moment of the birth of the son of God changed everything in the world. We could finally experience the divine love in human flesh. In this small way, we could start to know God.
In the candlelight of the church, sitting in prayer surrounded by our community, we have a glimpse into the kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. As we sing Silent Night we are transported to the manger scene to stand with the shepherds and stare at the infant face that will radiate love to all he meets in his short life. We desperately need that love, we need to know that we are uniquely valued and that we are not alone in our sadness or in our joy. God is with us. Emmanual, God with us is where we can experience joy and gladness.