We poured the milk and pulled the hot sugar cookies out of the oven, carefully baked to perfection just the way Santa, or dad, likes them. The gifts were wrapped with attention to detail and placed under the gorgeous Christmas tree, laced with artificial snow. The crafts were made, the songs were sung, and the bannister leading up our staircase was decorated with perfectly tied garland and bows. In this moment, when the PJ’s came on and the lights went off, there was so much anticipation for me as a child.
Do you remember this moment?
The anticipation of Christmas morning is often filled with wonder, curiosity and self-reflection. The anxiety of, “Which one of Santa’s lists did I make?” that comes on Christmas Eve reminds me so much of life and the way that I often view my strengths, my shortcomings, joy and God’s favor in my adult life.
But joy always came in the morning.
The sun rose, if I slept that long, and the alarm went off. My heart would start racing as I opened the bedroom door and asked, “Can I come out now?”. As I turned the corner, I fully embraced time with my family, sticky-sweet pancakes and sausage and the giving of gifts specifically picked out with care for the recipient. Such unexplainable joy was present, absent of the worries that filled the heart on Christmas Eve.
I use a secular example as a metaphor for how we sometimes feel during the advent season. The “joy that comes with the morning” that David refers to in Psalm 30 may be something that is fairly easy for you to embrace this holiday season. But I would imagine there are some of us who are fixated on our shortcomings, our season of life and what we hoped this Christmas would look like.
Maybe you’re not sure if a wayward child will visit this Christmas.
Maybe you faced a divorce this year, and you’re not sure how to navigate the holidays with your children.
Maybe you’re still single, and once again, you don’t have a date to that Christmas party.
Maybe you miscarried this year and you have no idea how to face your family and this highly anticipated day with the longing in your heart to be called “mom”.
The definition of joy is “a source or cause of delight”. In the face of life, and all that it brings us, we have the privilege of choosing to let our cause of delight be Jesus this holiday season. But this privilege is a choice in the face of disappointment and less than desirable life circumstances.
However, if we focus on circumstance instead of the Savior, we are robbing ourselves of the Source of our joy – the true joy we have in knowing Jesus.
A Sunday school teacher of mine in elementary school shared an acronym for joy that has stuck with me for years. She said, “Joy is about having our priorities in the order of Jesus, others and then yourself.” We have so much to be grateful for and to “joy” or “delight’ in during this holiday season and so much truth that we can dwell on, even in the midst of hard times.
To be intentional about having a heart of gratitude and leaning into your true Source and Cause of delight, I challenge you to start a gratitude journal. Just try it until the new year! Who knows – maybe the habit will stick. Each night before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful for.
Some way you were able to bless someone that day.
A truth from Scripture you were reminded of.
A quality of God that you read about.
Someone you are thankful for and why.
In this season of giving and reflecting, this habit will help us “joy in Jesus” each day. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 6, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Let our joy come from You this holiday season and always. Lord you are a good, good Father that you would send Your only Son to earth to do the unimaginable. To be born of a virgin, live a perfect life and then ultimately pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross. Help the “source of our delight” remain in You always and especially in this season. Your Word is never-changing and You are never failing. Help us claim these truths daily.
In Your Name,
Rebecca Dotson is the Founder and Chief Hatmaker of 818 Ministries based in Knoxville, TN (www.818Ministries.com). 818 Ministries is an organization dedicated to donating handmade hats and handwritten letters of encouragement to patients facing serious illnesses. This journey started for Rebecca after her mom’s victorious battle with breast cancer in 2014. She’s a marathon runner, coffee addict, bucket-list enthusiast, Jesus follower twenty-something on a quest to leave people better than she found them and knowing Jesus more fully than when she met them. Follow her (@rebecca.dotson) and 818 Ministries (@818ministries) on social media!