But this Christmas season is different. I struggled with motivation just to pull out the boxes of decorations from the basement. And this year, I only used about half of our decorations around the house.
Shopping is not my favorite activity any time of year, but the crowds, the stuff of commercialism, it's all just too overwhelming for me this year. I hear myself saying, "None of us needs one more thing from a store!", and then feel guilty for sounding like the Scrooge, "Humbug!"
So, in an attempt to take a positive view of my struggle and make it worthwhile, I've determined it's more important for me to do the most with little, and to persevere through the lack of 'feelings'. After all, obedience is a more meaningful motivator than feelings.
(I Samuel 15:22 ...to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.)
So, where IS the JOY to be found this Christmas season?
As we move into this last week of Advent, the week of LOVE, I am realizing my desire is to celebrate Christmas as a spiritual Ebenezer - a time of remembering what God did for us when He sent His only begotten Son to us. My desire this year is to focus on the purity and the holiness of the celebration...to magnify the One we celebrate, and not the celebration itself.
I've decided to keep an account of the moments I experience Jesus this Christmas season. And as I ponder these moments, I recognize these are the places I have found JOY!
For many years I've wanted to have a nativity set up in our front yard. I've wanted to offer a place of peace and tranquility and hope and safety for others to come and worship Christ with a visual remembrance of how God sent His Son into our world. And I've wanted to say to those who would pass by, "Come and meet Jesus! Come and adore Him Who came and is coming again...our King!"
This year our family set up our handmade nativity, crafted and painted by my mom and dad. My joy is full in knowing these were handcrafted in love for me. And so, I pray this memorial is a blessing to many as it speaks JOY to my heart through this Advent season!
After setting up our nativity, we invited friends from church and from our neighborhood to gather round and sing Christmas carols. Delightful to my heart, many came out on a chilly December evening to drink hot chocolate and sing old fashioned songs of Christmas. There were small children trying to sneak as many sugar cookies as possible, a neighbor leading us on his guitar, a baby for me to rock and hold, and a joyful noise to fill the night air!
Where's the JOY this Christmas season?
Our 20-something sons took the initiative for a family photo with which to create our annual Christmas card...tidings of GREAT JOY!
Setting out a giant chocolate bar wrapped in ribbon along with a Christmas thank you card for our mailman and our trash collector.
Leaving Christmas cookies with Christmas blessings in neighbors' mailboxes.
Creating a Scripture prayer card and then handing them out to random people at work. More JOY when unexpected people came and asked if I would indeed pray and bless them in the name of Jesus!
Leaving Scripture cards at restaurants, hotel, gas stations, and nursing home where we're visiting our own Mom B., my mother in love, five long months after suffering and surviving a massive stroke. Singing Christmas carols to her, brushing her hair, anointing her dry lips with lip balm, and reading to her from Jesus Calling (Sarah Young).
Joy fills my heart when I'm speaking to her about Jesus and she opens her eyes to look right through me; I'm sure she is seeing Jesus...present with her in her circumstances. I keep reminding her that Jesus, her Good Shepherd is holding her close to His chest and will carry her home!
Experiencing Jesus in surprising moments...prayer and thanksgiving with a group of girlfriends...receiving birth news of a baby boy for missionary friends...receiving good news from young friends of a baby in the knitting...getting to provide for strangers who lost their wallets and needed gas money to make it home, and secretly buying the meal for a family whose young Dad was wheelchair bound.
Family together, sons home from college, my husband spending Christmas break with me at home while he seeks a new career assignment, parents joining us for time away at our healing place...the salted air, white sanded gulf coast, and mission work of prayer seeking to bear great and beautiful fruit in the next generation...JOY for all Jesus joins with us along our journey into a new year.
There is JOY in this Christmas season! I've had to look a little harder than usual. I've needed to focus in...eyes fixed on Jesus, my Savior. I've needed to spend quiet time in His word and listen. It's there...JOY on this journey...and I pray you experience Him too!
Blessings of GREAT JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!