Typically, the Christmas season is a time of love, laughter, joy, and celebration. The joy of spending much needed time with people you cherish the most, the exquisite beauty of the decorated tree and lights, the excitement of waking up Christmas morning to exchange gifts, and ultimately should be about the celebration of the greatest gift of all- the birth of Jesus Christ. So where do you turn when your Christmas season isn’t turning out to be what you expected? How do you find joy in a time that might be anything but joyful at all?
Christmas is known around the world as the most wonderful time of the year, and generally, for the majority of people, I believe it is! But I have come to realize that for some, it can be one of the most heart-breaking times of the year. Another year without a loved one, another year where the lack of money stops you from giving what you truly want to give, and another year to realize just how lonely you really are. The usual joyous Christmas season can quickly end up becoming one of the most dreaded and heart-breaking times of the year. The feelings that accompany the way that Christmas is experienced is different for everyone, it all depends on your circumstances and your viewpoint from those circumstances. Does your focus on what you’re lacking, allow your joy to be lost? To quote Forest Gump:
“life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
I am sure that for many people reading this, you feel like every chocolate you choose, it ends up being one of those gross jelly filled ones. You may be constantly striving for one of the delicious caramel filled ones, but always end up disappointed when what you want, and what you get, are two vastly different outcomes. In life, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of only seeing what we are lacking. It’s easy to complain about the things, people, or physical objects we don’t have, rather than being thankful and rejoice in the things that we do have. It’s easy to take a one-way ticket to depression-ville, rather than spend a little bit of our time focusing on the blessings that are sitting right in front of us. Now I know that it is sometimes just downright hard to search through the bad, and focus on the good. But I have also come to learn that even the smallest seed of gratitude can grow into something beautiful amidst the mess.
I initially started out experiencing the Christmas season on the other side of that joy this year. Certain circumstances put me in a situation where I would be doing Christmas a little bit different… the joy just wasn’t there for me like it had been in past years. While I struggled with some tough decisions I quickly got lost in a “poor me” mentality, which was quickly sucking all the happiness I typically felt, out of the Christmas season. It was so dang easy to get lost in all the ways I wished my situation was different. I was constantly praying over my situation and how I wished these circumstances were not as they were. As Christmas drew closer I became more and more bitter that God wasn’t changing things like I had asked. In my bitterness I was quickly becoming some nasty combination of nasty old scrooge and the Grinch and thought about just skipping Christmas all together.
I was flipping through my bible Christmas morning and came upon John 10:10- “the thief does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” I had tagged this bible verse a while back because past me, knew future me, would need this one day… turns out today was this day. It really hit home to me that this season was not about what was lacking from my life, but what was present. Christmas isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about our hopelessness, and it isn’t about our circumstances. Christmas is really and truly about the ultimate present God gave to us, and that was Jesus. That’s where the true joy is found. He came to earth, so we could truly experience life full of hope, fulfillment, joy, and contentment in every season of our lives.
I truly believe that God doesn’t want us to get lost in what we lack- physically, emotionally, or spiritually. He wants us to focus on what we do have, and that’s Him. I believe that God didn’t change my situation this Christmas because He wanted me to take a step back this year and see Christmas for what it really was: His gift. His presence. Every year I get so wrapped up in putting significance on very unimportant things- like the presents, and the tree, and the lights, and who I’m with (which don’t get me wrong is very important) and where I’m at. In the chaos I lose the true reason for the season. In the past, the Christmas season had become superficial to me. Even though I always knew the true meaning of Christmas was about Christ’s birth, I never truly celebrated it. This year I think God saw me walking back down that same path, and in typical fashion He threw me for a loop. He changed my circumstances so I had to changes my focus. He wanted me to focus back on Him and to focus back on the true meaning of Christmas. This year I believe He wanted it to be different, He wanted it to be about the gift He gave to me… the gift He gave to all of us, Jesus Christ.
Christmas truly is about how God sent His one and ONLY son to come and save us not only from our enemies, but from ourselves. He sent His precious son to an unsafe place so that we can have everlasting life through Him. He was also sent so we can have hope for the life that we live now. Let that sink in. He came to give us life… He truly does want what is best for us in our lives. Yes, things come out of left field we never expected, and truly awful things come crashing into our lives that we never deserved or asked for… I know we will never understand why these things happen, but I do know that God work’s all things out for good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28). While not every day is good, there is good in every day. If you base your happiness and your joy on what you do or do not have, you’re always going to be on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Things and people come and go continuously. But one thing remains constant and that is the love of Jesus. Knowing who He is and knowing that His love for us never changes, is the one thing we can count on day in and day out. That is where we find our joy.
It’s so easy to forget and brush aside the fact that Jesus came down from Heaven where He was living the best life, to Earth, where He knew He would be living the worst part of His life. He came to be persecuted, rejected, and ultimately killed, all so that we could have hope for something better. He did all of this willingly, and knowingly that people would deny Him, would say He was a fake, and would turn their backs on Him all-together. I don’t know many people who would die for someone, knowing that that person whole-heartedly loves and accepts them; let alone dieing for someone knowing that that person may never love them back. So just imagine how deep and how wide that love is! God sent Jesus to save us from the hopelessness, from the disappointments, and from the heart ache we experience, by finding our true joy in who He is. Christmas shouldn’t be about what we are lacking, but about what we have gained.
While life is like a box of chocolates, and we truly never will know what we are going to get, one thing we can rest assured of is that Jesus is constant. He is always with us always and He came to Earth so that we can have life! We can rejoice in the fact that while we will face trials and tribulations in the world, we will one day be set free from the pain that we experience day to day. The true joy of the Christmas season is found in the birth of a baby that was born in a manger. In the middle of the night, in the most unexpected way.