One of my favourite verses is Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” In this Christmas season is truly warms my heart as I reflect on it, knowing that the God of all hope came. He came as our Prince of Peace. He came with peace. He came and left peace. I hope in a God in the midst of all the world craziness that continues to fill me with joy and peace as I trust in Him. My belief is real because Jesus is, was and always will be. The joy I carry has so much meaning during these times. The joy I carry becomes fuller as I am able to watch my boys approach Christmas and make the celebrations their own and Christmas becomes more meaningful to them.
As the boys get older, the way that joy is expressed looks so different especially in this Christmas season. When it was baby’s first Christmas until about 3 years old, it was us as parents who were excited about their gifts. We video- taped us squealing and screaming as we opened their gifts for or with them hoping to catch a glimpse of a smile and glimmer in their eyes. We hoped our expression of joy would be contagious and they would show some emotion or interest in tearing away at wrapping paper. From ages 4 to 13 they took over the excitement demonstration and while we wanted to sleep in, they couldn’t wait to be up and get the party started. Now, they are still up relatively early however there are no squeals or screams from any of us. The gift list is shorter even though more expensive (lol)! We spend less time opening gifts and more time being with each other, loving traditions and moments together.
This gift stays close to our hearts to give us strength during a season packed with excitement and anticipation yet sometimes equally packed with heartache and sorrow.
As I reflect on the changes in my boys’ approach to Christmas gift exchanges that have come through years of growth and maturity, I am so thankful that through these years the one thing that hasn’t changed is the reason and meaning of Christmas. Of course, when they were babies there wasn’t understanding but since they have been old enough to understand, they have had no problem keeping Jesus the main focal point. I am so blessed to be an observer seeing and hearing them choose favorite scriptures and carols and watching them gladly take part in Christmas pageants -even inviting friends to be welcomed guests! They understand the gift of Christmas Joy.
“Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!”
Joy to the world the Lord is come is the message of Christmas. Sometimes this season can be far from joyful experiences. We have had that be our reality many times. I have had loved ones pass and their funerals be the week of Christmas. I had 2 years back-to-back with surgery and being in the hospital. We know of so many who truly have very hard times.
So how do we keep our joy? It is in the earth receiving her king, that helps us to experience the truth that joy is a sacred, precious, life giving gift that only the presence of God can and has brought to us. This gift stays close to our hearts to give us strength during a season packed with excitement and anticipation yet sometimes equally packed with heartache and sorrow.
It brings my heart the greatest joy to see my boys understand there is no Christmas without Christ. Yes, they ask for gifts and enjoy receiving but they also enjoy giving. They ask for the music to be played. They also enjoy planning the family movie nights as we cozy up together under the blankets in front of the fire place – of course to watch Home Alone, Elf and other movies but also the true Christmas story movies. They also enjoy Jesus. They would miss Him if He wasn’t present. Christmas Joy comes from the inside out. When Jesus is the honored guest at His own birthday party, it is unspeakable joy that flows into everything we do.
The seasons of unexpected loss or surgeries in our lives were also seasons of greater joy than we expected or hoped for, as we focused on Jesus and allowed Him to be very present with us. We didn’t have to do anything extra yet just by reading scripture, praying together, singing carols and valuing our time together as family, God did extraordinary things in our hearts to make our memories extraordinarily special. As Philippians reminds us- we choose to
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Hopefully you will too! Whatever we face as we plan celebrations, Jesus is present with His joy. I pray that we will all choose to accept it and rejoice in Him as our honoured guest who always makes Christmas extra special.