Recapturing the Joy of Christmas—Part I

IMG_4116It’s Christmas time. And here we are, waiting and waiting for that special Christmassy feeling to envelope us. We listen to Christmas carols, bake, shop, watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and decorate the tree, expecting our heart to begin beating with the joy of the season any minute now. And…nothing.

At Christmas, when we should be reveling in the ultimate example of our big God in small places—Jesus in a manger—instead we feel weighed down and stressed out by the bustle ofjesus birth life.

Our ho-ho-ho sounds more like a ho-hum.

How do we recapture the joy of Christmas?

Last year, I had a tough time “feeling” Christmas. I love Christmas, but by December, when I’m usually bouncing around singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs and decorating every nook and cranny of my house—inside and out—I found myself struggling to find the Christmas spirit. I had quit my job so that I could be at home with my son as he dealt with a serious back injury that left him in 24/7 pain and unable to attend school. At the same time, my daughter was also dealing with a very difficult, ongoing situation. I spend a lot of 2016 literally on my face before God, praying for healing for my son and strength for my daughter. After eleven months, when my son was finally pain free and through medication withdrawal, and my daughter’s issue ended, I waited for peace, rest, and joy to return. But it didn’t. Their suffering had left me anxious, lifeless, and drained. I was unable to grasp joy again.

Even at Christmas.

Then, as I looked around me,  I realized that I wasn’t the only one bewildered by my lack of Christmas spirit. All around me, I saw people who had lost the joy of Christmas. Like me.

So, how did I get my Christmas joy back?

Today we’ll focus on the first way.

Serving others at Christmas.

I know what you’re thinking—Oh yeah, right. I already have twelve million things to do, and you’re telling me that adding something else to my crammed schedule will help me recapture my Christmas joy? I don’t think so.

Trust me. If you want to recapture joy, find a way to serve.

Resized_20161203_183739Last Christmas, I signed up to be a table hostess for our church Ladies’ Christmas Tea. And let me tell you, this is a lot of work. Shopping for table gifts. Ironing table cloths, buying and wrapping gifts, deciding upon table decorations. Lugging fine china, silverware, tea pots, creamers, sugar bowls to church. Lugging dirty china, tea pots, creamers, and sugar bowls home again. Washing everything—by hand—the next day.

But here’s the upside. Seven ladies, including some who do not attend church, felt pampered, relaxed for three hours, sang Christmas carols, and heard the gospel from our speaker. It was a wonderful evening…

And, then, I felt it. The first flutter of joy seeping into my dispirited heart.

Next, I signed up to lead tours of our church’s live nativity scene for two weekends. While this required no prior preparation other than clearing my evenings, it did require me to swallow my pride.

You see, in order to lead tours of 50-75 people through the thirty minute live Nativity, I had to dress as a shepherd. And since the live nativity is outside, in the freezing cold, I put my shepherd’s robe on over my heavy winter coat, hood, and boots.

Which means, in essence, that I looked like a very fat shepherd.20161210_162131

Ladies, you get it, right?

The photo here is of my husband, who also volunteered. He doesn’t care if he looks fat, so…

But leading groups of people through the live nativity all evening—listening to the children squeal in wonder at the angels and the real camels, hearing the appreciation from the adults, and watching cold-reddened faces light up with wonder at the birth of Jesus and the gospel message presented at the end of the tour—was well worth waddling around as an over-sized herdswoman.

And, again, the miracle of Jesus’ birth washed over me, giving me hope, calming my anxiety, instilling anticipation.

IMG_0072I also agreed to handle the game at our neighborhood group’s Christmas party. I divided everyone into smaller groups, and they decorated a member of their group as a Christmas tree.

And I had fun. After my year, I’d almost forgotten what having fun was like.

This Christmas, find a way to serve. Opportunities to volunteer at church, food pantries, schools, senior centers, shelters, and community events are boundless.

And, before you know it, you’ll feel your heart begin beating once again with Christmas joy  and the miracle of our big God as a small baby.

If you live within driving distance of Woodside, Troy campus, I encourage you to go online and register to attend the free live nativity. You can find more information atwoodside nativity woodsidebible.org/nativity.  And, if want to be a fat shepherd, serve free coffee and donuts, or help with check-in, you can also sign up to volunteer.

Next week, we’ll delve into Part II as, together, we recapture the joy of Christmas and the miracle of  our Savior’s birth.

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