bruce_woodThere is an old Christmas hymn whose refrain states, “How Great our Joy! Great our Joy!” This is a hymn that is meant to convey a spirit that is often missed during the normal hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Too often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the many errands, the flashy gifts, and mountains of preparations for parties, dinners, and family gatherings of all kinds. For so many, Christmas is a time of heartache – a time where a loved one lost is felt most deeply, it is also a time when those who are alone feel their loneliness most acutely. It is often easy to miss the joy of Christmas that undergirds everything the season is really about.

I think we should all try to change that this year. Christmas is a celebration not just of our own families, but families and persons of all kinds. Christmas is a time when we should stop to celebrate that we are all people, deserving of love, and reach out to others who may be alone this year.

One of the greatest moments at Christmastime (since I have known my wife’s family for almost a decade) is the Christmas dinner that they put on in their own home, or that of Shirley – my wife’s grandmother. This dinner is always special not just because of the family who are there, but because of the large number of people who inevitably are invited as well. Many a Christmas we have spent with families who have no one else to spend the holiday with or with families who are separated from their families. We have had just people who would be alone at Christmas and we have all celebrated, feasted, and “made merry.” This year, my wife and I have the honor of continuing this tradition.

Because you see, joy is not about stuff. Joy is also not about happiness, means, or even popularity. Joy is more than an emotion; it is a state of being. The angels in Bethlehem announced to the shepherd great news of joy when they came to speak of the birth of Jesus. It was not just a time of happiness or of celebration, because Jesus is more than emotion, He came so that people would know peace. He came that they would know love, greater than any love before it. He came that people could have hope. Having all of these things produces in us joy.

So, this Christmas, pursue more than stuff – pursue joy. When you are tempted in the coming week or so to get frustrated, tap into the joy of knowing that Jesus is among us. When you are tempted to get angry, tap into the joy that comes from the hope that Jesus brings. When you are tempted to allow loneliness to overcome you, tap into the joy that comes from the knowledge that Jesus is ready with open arms to receive you in love.

I leave you now with this: may you Christmas be filled with joy, may it be filled with peace, may the love of Jesus be with you all and may you know the joy that comes from that little baby in a Bethlehem stable on that silent night.

 

Merry Christmas!