Joy! A Carol Medley
In our fondest of hopes Christmas should be brimming with joy, but in reality, that may not always be the case. The joy of Christmas can be marred by our expectations not being met, or struggles in family relationships. Perhaps families are parted by long distances, or financial pressures mean that we can’t be as generous as we’d like, or illnesses have brought pain and sorrow to what we’d hope would be a joyous festivity.
One big joy-killer can be how busy the Christmas season can become. People want to commemorate the season with parties and concerts and other special events, but all the rushing around can lead to more tiredness and stress, so we feel we can’t even slow down and really enjoy and appreciate the gatherings and celebrations. It can get to the point that we are relieved when Christmas is behind us, instead of finding it a highlight. We echo Ebenezer Scrooge’s “Bah-Humbug!” even when that is not our deepest desire for the season.
So, how do we keep the joy in Christmas, or how do we put it back in if we find it’s been pushed out? It really takes intentionality. Joy rarely happens by accident at the best of times, but when there are challenges to joy, we have to be purposeful to guard and grow it. This joy medley offers several clues to keeping or restoring joy to our hearts this season.
First, it encourages us to sing—Sing Joy! Music really does have the capacity to change our outlook and mood. We have to guard ourselves, however, for letting the familiar songs become trite to us. There are many Christmas Carols which have deep, rich texts. When we sing the old favorites, we should reflect on the words with renewed attention. And perhaps we can pull out a hymnal and look over less-familiar carols and let their lyrics bless us with new glimpses of the joy that their composers have found in their own meditations on Christ’s birth.
Another spark to joy is to take some time to remember. Remember what has brought us joy in seasons past. Are those missing, and why? Remember the true reason for the season. Is this being crowded out by other lesser activities? Are the things you can cut back on in order to restore the joy in what is essential? Remember how precious God’s Gift to us truly is, and recapture the wonder and joy that He would give His Son for you, personally. Find renewed joy in the fact that you have been adopted as a child of such a good and loving Father and tender, gracious Savior.
December can be a dreary month, with the dwindling light of the shortest days, and bare trees. But it can also be a beautiful time, with the extra lights, first snows, and a chance to glimpse the beautiful structure of the limbs of trees which have laid beneath the now-fallen leaves. We would do well to take note of whatever beauty we can find in nature, and take advantage of any day when conditions are good enough for us to brave the out of doors. This is not merely because “the fresh air will do us good,” but for the purpose of connecting with the Lord in the cathedral of His creation, and taking time to adore Him, even in the more bracing aspects of His wonders. He speaks, brings His beauty, and His joy in many contrasting ways, if we have the eyes to see them, and enjoy them with Him.
A sure way to cultivate joy in our lives is to spend time in thanksgiving, praise, worship, and adoration. Remembering who He is and what He has done focuses our eyes on a higher plane than the often-stressful hubbub around us. He is SO worthy of our praise, He inhabits our praises and draws near us, and there is no more joyful place that in His presence. We will find many of the lyrics in these songs are about adoration and worship, and there is nothing more fitting than that, especially at this time of year. Yet we often do so precious little of these personal times of worship because of how busy the season is. Like when Jesus was born, there is no room in the inn of our lives for Him.
All of these ideas for cultivating joy have one thing in common: Time. Isn’t that the rub? Time is the very thing we have so little of this month. It gets down to choices, priorities, and intentionality. Many years ago, Steven Covey wrote about how if we would put the “big rock” priorities into our calendar first, then we could fit in the “little rocks.” But if we put in the little rocks, making the low priority items first, we’d not have room for the big rocks. Joy is one of those things we have to make room for if we want to have it. We need to figure out what will bring joy into our lives, then prioritize it as essential. After that we can put in the other things. It’s simple, but it’s far from easy. But then, we get to decide if we want easy, or we want joy!