Once again its two days before Christmas and my house is anything but peaceful and tranquil. Much of the blame lands on me.
Each year I push towards my idea of a great Christmas. Not that I could ever attain the level of perfection portrayed on Christmas cards. The homes, inside and out, beautifully decorated—not a dirty sock or hand print in sight. A large extended family gazes lovingly at each other across a table laden with scrumptious food. All the dishes match, the tablecloth is pristine and ironed. The children are neat and clean, with angelic smiles. Their noses aren’t running. Their chins are free of teething slobber.
Over the years I have found it necessary to modify my level of expectation. Last year was my lowest. It was our first Christmas with our grandchildren. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the road so they could spend time with both parents. It was late in the evening when we all arrived back home to open our gifts. We were all too exhausted and overwhelmed to enjoy our first Christmas as a family.
The worse part was I had no sense of joy. The whole meaning of Christmas was lost in activities and responsibilities. In frustration I penned these thoughts:
I’m surrounded by it.
Spelled out with tinsel on large banners hung in the streets.
Embroidered on sweaters with brightly colored thread.
Proclaimed by carolers.
Written with spray snow as decorations on store windows.
But this Christmas it is the only emotion I don’t feel.
Sadness, exhaustion, and anger have crowded out the joy.
I’m overwhelmed by the challenges in my life,
I feel everything but happiness and joy.
Maybe that’s my problem.
I equate happiness with joy.
I need to remember the difference.
Joy is not an emotion derived because life is going well.
It is my response to life no matter what is happening.
This year I have higher, but I think realistic expectations for Christmas. Even so, I again find it hard to experience joy. My friend joked she found my joy when she unpacked my Christmas decorations. Although the sight of J-O-Y stretched across the mantle brings a smile to my face, my quest continues. This year I want to experience joy.
Ignore the messes in my life.
Quiet the noise of what the world tells me is important at Christmas.
Change my focus from what I need to do to who I need to worship.
Embrace the truth of who I am in Him.
Recognize that joy will bring me happiness.
It is a tall order. I am ahead of last year. The tree is up and trimmed. Most of the gifts are bought and wrapped. The house would be clean except the warm weather and rain has turned the driveway into a mud bog. One grandchild is struggling with obedience—she’s been lashing out at herself and others. The other is having difficulty sleeping—he prowls around in the night and gets into things.
This Christmas I am striving to put these issues aside and focus on the reason for the season. Only then can joy be found.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, Your gift of love and grace is the best gift I will ever receive. Knowing you love me, have forgiven me and will always be with me gives me true joy.