Please find JOY!

Finding Christmas’ joy is a lot harder in 2020 isn’t it?  Health authorities are urging us not to travel, not to gather. Families will be apart. Christmas Eve services will have far fewer in attendance. Feasts will turn into suppers. Many of the things we usually do around the ‘holy-day’ are not happening this year.

BUT, I am choosing JOY!  I put up my tree, decorated my house, and started to play Christian music before Thanksgiving – gasp!  I am determined to remember how to live with JOY, regardless of the circumstances.  Will you choose to enjoy the decorations and blinking lights?  Will you intentionally make the journey of Advent, joyfully? 

Christ Jesus came to a world that was far more sad, to people who lived in circumstances much more dire, than what we experience.  The Jews were oppressed by Roman occupation, taxed, and subject to tyranny. Life was, for many, short and hard. Poverty was everywhere. Children frequently died from disease. Work was grueling. Into that world God sent His Son with a gift – “life to the full.”  But, most of the world failed to receive the Gift. John tells us that “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5, NIV)

The Gift is still offered to us. His salvation is still available, bringing us Light and life. Will we receive Him, find that promised joy?  

In this age of COVID and chaos we are at risk of seeing only the difficulties and missing the joy offered. That is why I encourage you to invest time each day in soul care, in worship.  If we attempt to find Christmas joy by making this month into a Santa-centered holiday extravaganza, we may enjoy some happy moments, but we will also come up spiritually empty on December 26.  Oh yes, I appreciate the “Santa Claus” idea that fuels much fun. However, he’s not ‘it.’ Christmas celebrates good news that is ancient yet new with each proclamation:  “Jesus, the Savior, is born!”

So how can we experience real JOY?  Here are some suggestions.

Engage with other people authentically.

If you cannot make the family gathering, make a phone call, send a note, connect on Messenger. Take time, when you’re out and behind that mask, to extend a simple greeting with those who pass you by. When you do have a real conversation, listen and look for ways to lift up not tear down.

Practice generosity.

This is a season of gift giving. Start with the gift of yourself. Set aside self-centeredness. Give forgiveness. Give love. Give grace. Oh how our world needs people who are great-hearted and generous.  It is a mistake to think that spending large amounts of money on an extravagant gift can buy love. But, giving of ourselves, including our resources, to those who cannot repay, feeds our soul. The Word reminds us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Really, it is!

Listen to the Spirit.  

Focus and then re-focus on the story of God becoming Flesh,  a baby born in a manger who brought the Word to us. Most of us have heard the story about a couple traveling to Bethlehem, not finding a room, their Baby born in a manger, angels singing an announcement to shepherds so many times that we are tempted to nod along all the while missing the wonder of it all. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” What a gift!

Joy is available to us, God’s gift. Will we live in it in 2020?

The word from the Word says “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:9-14, NIV)


Angels We Have Heard on High
(Josh Groban sings this carol beautifully!)

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains;
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say what may the tidings be;
Which inspire your heav’nly song?

Come to Bethlehem and see,
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

See within a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heav’n and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

© Public Domain

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