Joy & Christmas?

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’…or is it…?

The answer is way more complicated than it should be. It should be the most wonderful time of the year because it is the season where we are celebrating the most incredible event in all of history!! If you don’t really know the story I am referring to, then hold tight! It’s – a – comin’!

The story starts way back in Genesis when God creates the entire universe! He also created the first two humans and they did the only thing they were not allowed to do at the time, resulting in sin.

There was only one way to wash away the sin that had continued from that point on: God, the creator of the universe, sent His Son to earth as a baby. This baby came as the SAVIOR and He was FULLY human yet also the Son of God. God Had plans for His son to die as a living sacrifice for all our sins. If all that doesn’t amaze you than you need to re-evaluate your faith because this isn’t just some story. It is TRUTH! A real, actual, historic event.

I was talking to a friend and she made a good point that I had never thought of. There are two sides to this:

1) Sometimes we ‘glamorize’ the Christmas story. In paintings and nativity scenes Mary and Joseph are beautiful and do not appear the least bit tired or stressed. Baby Jesus appears pretty clean for a newborn born in a stable. They just traveled well over 10 days on a dirt road. Mary is in the last days of her pregnancy, riding a donkey, and Joseph is walking. That is an incredibly, incredibly, long journey.

Have you ever driven for just one day straight? You stumble out of the car and you are stiff and sore. Mary was on a wobbly, stinky, slow, donkey AND she was very, very, pregnant. And then there is Joseph who we assume walked that whole time! At least 10 days of that. So, lets be realistic folks, Mary and Joseph had just gone through a traumatic experience of rejection for having an unbelievable story of a ‘pregnant virgin,’ they were exhausted, weak, sore, dirty, stinky, and away from family.

Now, is this important to the story? No, not one bit. It isn’t even mentioned in the bible-just educated assumptions. However, I think it is neat for us to step back and look at this. Taking a story that we tend to get tired of hearing every year (but shouldn’t), and making it fresh.

Wow guys! This actually happened! THE KING OF KINGS was born with the plan to save us all!!

This life-like image of the nativity story doesn’t just help us to visualize it better but it helps us to really see the miracle of this birth and see a great example of a young couple putting their whole lives aside to be faithful servants of God. The importance of the story should remain on Jesus Christ’s miraculous birth and the purpose of His birth, but it is neat to think about.

2) There is also the other side of the spectrum where Christmas loses the Christ. How does this happen?? Christmas without Christ is literally just ‘mas’. How do people lose sight of something so miraculous?

image

Let’s be honest, it isn’t only our society who forget Him. Sometimes we do too.

It happens every year. We start making family plans, buying gifts then worrying about money, making and serving feasts. Next thing you know you are at the Christmas Eve service at church thinking about this historic event and Christs love. Your Christmas should have a little more ‘Christ’ than just a church service.

The best thing you can do this season is sharing your faith. That itself won’t get people into heaven, but it may open an opportunity that God may use to draw your loved one to Jesus.

Don’t beat around the bush. This holiday season is for sharing the gospel. People are more open to hearing about Jesus this time of year, so take advantage of that and make His name known this Christmas.

Well, that’s why Christmas should be the most wonderful time of the year but for many, the anticipation of holiday traditions cause stress and anxiety as Christmas looms on the horizon.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” — Luke 2:10-11

A bit of joy will do. But “great joy”? Is it almost too much to hope for?

Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on that night that changed the world.

Real joy does not come from within. Trying to find joy by getting it out of yourself is like believing a river can flow uphill. Maybe that’s why so many have a hard time finding joy at Christmas. Bite into a Christmas cookie, and you might enjoy it. Open a shiny package and you might enjoy what you find inside.

But joy itself—in its true and pure form—is so much more than enjoyment. Joy is the startling realization that God really has claimed territory in this world. He’s taken back what belongs to him. And then joy is a thirst that doesn’t want to be quenched; a hunger that knows it will go on and on. It’s a good kind of hunger and thirst, to never get enough of God.

Even if we have real joy, some of us will still struggle during this season. I need you to know that you don’t need to have perfect, unending, Christmas spirit. Especially when you are experiencing a loss, illness, or are overwhelmed. It’s ok to not be ok, even at Christmas – “the most wonderful time of the year.”

The stress of groups of relatives, financial worries, general busyness, or preparing the Christmas meal, can mount, and some face an altogether different stress – the fear of spending the holiday season alone (either literally alone or mentally alone with their thoughts and fears).

Here are some of my ideas to

help you survive Christmas:image

  • à First, stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy during the holidays. It is OK to feel whatever it is you are feeling.
  •  You may find your mood improves when you’re in the company of certain friends or favorite relatives – especially those who accept your full range of feelings and don’t put pressure on you to be anything other than who you are. Seek out those people who make you feel better, and try to avoid people who contribute to your depression or anxiety.
  • Try to be more physically active. Physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better. Even though it is stinkin’ COLD outside, try to take a walk, go to the gym, get out in the snow, or take on a project that calls for physical activity.
  • Emotionally, physically and psychologically, the holidays are draining. You need every bit of strength you can muster. Try to get a decent balance of rest and exercise.
  • Try setting one or two manageable goals every day – even if they are as simple as cleaning out a closet or drawer, writing a letter, or journaling. The satisfaction you get from completing a task adds to your sense of well being.
  • For anyone who drinks: watch your alcohol intake. While a few drinks may make you feel temporarily euphoric, alcohol is a depressant and often ends up making you feel worse than before.
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, have lost your appetite, have continuing thoughts of hopelessness and despair, seeking professional help may be wise.
  • Family get-togethers may be difficult. Be honest with each other about your feelings and fears. Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do for the holiday season.
  • Initiate activity yourself; do not wait for others.
  • There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change.
  • Be careful of “shoulds” – it’s better to do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, just sit out that one for this year. Maybe next year you will be able to handle it.
  • Don’t set expectations too high for yourself or for the day. Undertake only what each family member can handle comfortably.
  • Set limitations. Only do the things that are very special/important to you. Do the best you can at a few things instead of trying to do everything. Even though you may want to do everything, be respectful of yourself by carefully picking and choosing how much you can handle.
  • Once you have decided what you and your family will be doing during the holidays, let your relatives and friends know so that they can try to work around your stress while you try to recover. Its okay to put your recovery and well-being first.
  • Some time spent by yourself can be helpful, but be careful not to isolate.
  • Baking goodies and cleaning the house can get out of proportion. If these chores are enjoyable, go ahead, but not to the point that it is overtiring. If it is not enjoyable, either buy baked goods, or go without this year.
  • Be aware of the increased accessibility of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol during the holidays and be cautious not to overdo it.
  • What you choose to do one year for Christmas, you don’t have to do the next year.
  • For families who have experienced a recent loss you may want to try doing your traditions differently then you have in the past. One possibility (if affordable) go away on a vacation. It doesn’t have to be anything big; maybe even a daytrip. Planning, packing, etc. keeps your mind somewhat off the holiday and you share the time in a different way.
  • Avoid the busyness of stores and holiday activities by getting things ready as early as possible. Maybe even set an earlier ‘pretend’ Christmas date to help keep on track.
  • If shopping is too much, consider shopping online. Many stores will offer free shipping deals this time of year. You can also ask your spouse, relative, or close friend help you navigate crowds or pick up items.

Most importantly, if you can’t handle helping with family things, being in crowds, or can’t afford buying gifts, remember that these things are not important at all. Please don’t stress about these things. I hope and pray that your friends and family will understand if you explain your reasoning.

If you feel guilty about not giving a gift, ask if you and your loved one can do something together instead of giving gifts. If your loved one is also a believer, you could look for ways you could teach others about real joy found in Christ. If they are not believers, consider going to a shelter where you can share the greatest story ever while serving others. You could also give gifts of time. Give a massage, give them a mani/pedi done by you, make them dinner, or watch their favorite movie with them – even if you detest it.

What is important during this season, is that you can find true Christmas joy and share it with everyone you know! Send a card, a Facebook message, an email, or tell them in person, about the greatest day in history! The day that still affects us every moment of everyday. The day where Jesus was born with a plan to suffer and die, just so that each and everyone of us could be washed in His blood. We are cleansed from all our sins when we accept His gift – the greatest gift of all – eternal life through a relationship with Him.

Christmas time is filled with SOOOO many opportunities to share the Gospel. People tend to be a bit more open to hearing about Jesus. Many people choose to sing and enjoy listening to Christmas carols about Him, even if the rest of the year they would rather Jesus’ name not even be mentioned. Then, there is a whole heap of people annually attending a church service on Christmas Eve. There are so many opportunities every year yet so few people really know the whole story. So many haven’t experienced God in their lives.

So many believe that the story of Jesus’ birth is a myth.

Christmas exists so that we can share the Gospel and allow Jesus to work in the hearts of the people around us. People are not reached by us just showing and living out the gospel. Although we must still do that, it is just as important for us to teach about Christ. The people around us also need to hear the greatest story in all of history.

Be creative in the ways that you “do” Christmas this year. Make your celebrations either as big or as little as you can handle. Don’t pile on a million tasks if you are not up to it (don’t even take on one if you are not up to it). And of course, find real joy then share the gospel as much as you can. Don’t worry about looking silly if you cannot contain your excitement…

THE KING OF KINGS WAS BORN; THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.

That makes this season ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’

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