Moltmann on Christmas Joy

Duccio di Buoninsegna – The Nativity between Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel (Image Source, Wikimedia Commons)

In his new book, The Living God and the Fullness of Life, Moltmann argues that the Christian festivals (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) exemplify Christianity as a religion of joy. This was also a theme in Moltmann’s conversation with Miroslav Volf last year, and in his essay over on the Yale Theology of Joy website (sidebar: this same essay appears to also be included in the new book, Joy and Human Flourishing – check it out!).

I thought this short section on Christmas would be very appropriate for reflection this season. I’ll visit this part of the book again with his statements about Easter and Pentecost during the appropriate times. Enjoy!

When we think about it, we arrive at the surprising conclusion that Christianity is a unique religion of joy. It lives the Christian faith in its festivals. […]
Christianity begins with Christmas. When Mary becomes pregnant she sings:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

(Luke 1:46-47)
When her child is born in Bethlehem, the angels come fom heaven to the poor shepherds in the fields with the announcement: Behold, I bring to you good news of a great joy, . . . for to you is born this day . . . a Saviour.” (Luke 2:10-11, RSV) According to the thought of the Eastern church, this birth takes place not in a manmade stable, but in a cave in the earth: the child is the Saviour of the earth as well. Jesus is born out of God’s exuberant joy—God “has pleasure” in him. God brings “great joy” to human beings, first of all to the solitary, freezing shepherds in the fields. That is why today we still sing joyful hymns all over the world today, and exchange gifts as a sign of our joy: Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her king.

The Living God and the Fullness of Life, Kindle location 1238

Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for a free digital review copy.

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