December 24: Finding Joy in Christmas
Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let Earth receive her King! It’s one of my favorite carols; I want the whole world to know the King has come! He was promised for so long, and in so many ways throughout scripture, Israel was told to anticipate his coming with joy and anticipation. But hundreds of years and many generations passed before the Promised One arrived. Israel grew tired of waiting and wondered what to expect.
When He did arrive, the Messiah was nothing at all like the waiting people imagined. A tiny baby was born to a young woman who conceived the child before she was married, and her betrothed who chose to take her as his wife and raise her child as his in spite of her embarrassing condition. Both were visited by an angel beforehand who gave them encouragement and instruction. Mary and Joseph were humble and obedient, but together they wondered at the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. They were no doubt frightened, confused, and apprehensive about what lay ahead for the infant they brought into the world that night.
And then the choir of angels appeared in the sky, praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men (people) of good will!” The shepherds heard this heavenly announcement and came to see the baby lying in a manger. They were amazed at what they saw, and they went away rejoicing. The shepherds were probably the first people to actually experience joy on this strange, mysterious, wondrous night.
Joy is exuberant, an explosion of deep peace, contentment, celebration, elation, and glee. Joy exceeds happiness because it is more profound than one’s immediate circumstances. Joy is an overarching emotion that casts brilliant light into all the dark spaces of our hearts and leaves us radiant with hope. The shepherds were the lowliest of society at that time. They lived in the wilderness with their sheep. They mostly slept in caves or out in the fields. They rarely bathed, had virtually no creature comforts, and were only important as field hands who tended the flocks. Their lives were hard and offered few opportunities for rejoicing, but they found overwhelming, undeniable joy in this first Christmas.
When your caregiving journey seems unbearably long or is nothing like you imagined it might be, take a breath and a step back. During this Christmas season find a moment’s joy in the unexpected blessing of a tender moment with your loved one, or a surprise visit from a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Ponder the words in a favorite Christmas carol. Lose yourself in the mystery of the advent of a Messiah who came to save the world but started out small, helpless, and completely dependent on others to accomplish his purpose. Just think, you don’t have to be a savior; you only have to find a spot of joy in each day. When you do, you’ll find the strength to make it through another minute, another hour, another day, and the joy will increase as you continue to collect those moments.
This week we finally get to celebrate the advent of the Christ, come to the world as an infant but with the hope of all creation resting on His shoulders. And His shoulders are strong enough to bear that weight for all of us. Allow yourself to celebrate the Calm, the Peace, and the Truth of Christmas. Daily seek to find your joy in Jesus and let Him direct your paths.
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about finding Joy in the promise of Christmas.