By Kelly Carr
Maybe this is your favorite time of year because you live far from home, and this is the one annual visit with your family.
Perhaps there’s an excitement in your household because your child or grandchild is getting ready to experience a first Christmas.
If you own a business or work in retail, this is likely a harried time when you have pressure to solidify as many sales as you can.
And if you’ve lost a loved one this year, this week may house sadness, experiencing the first Christmas with an empty place at the table.
It’s fascinating that one date on the calendar can extract such a wide array of feelings and memories. Even with all the glad tidings we can spread, we may feel a little rushed or a little tired at the end of it all. In the midst of all that’s going on, good and bad, what if we lose sight of the joy promised by the newborn King?
First, we remember what joy is.
I recall learning years ago that joy isn’t an emotion. I like this definition I recently read: “Joy is an attitude or a belief, which soothes us even in the most sorrowful of situations. . . . Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. It is not based on something good happening, but is an attitude of the heart or spirit,” wrote Dr. Cheryl MacDonald.
We are told that Jesus even had joy when he faced the cross. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Now we know anticipating a torturous death was not filled with happy emotions. No, Jesus sweat drops of blood in anxiety the night of his arrest. So for Hebrews to describe him as having joy sounds incorrect. But that’s evidence that joy is truly something deep within the soul rather than based on circumstances.
So no matter our situation or emotional state—happy, frightened, silly, sad—we believe in our hearts that Jesus’ purposeful birth, life, death, and resurrection was for our salvation. Such understanding plants in us a deep-seated joy.
The second step in rekindling joy this season is to acknowledge what God has done.
As I discussed months ago on Easter Sunday, it’s not a biblical mandate to feel a spiritual rush on holidays. You may not be caught up in the wonder of the incarnation until February 4 or September 23. And that’s OK.
But no matter your emotional state this season, set aside some time to dwell upon the reality that initiates joy—God chose to lower himself into human form in order to make a way for us to spend eternity with him. That’s a powerful truth that makes a difference in our lives every day of the year. With this in mind, honor the Father, praise the Son, and continue to hope in the Spirit.
Have a joyful Christmas.