“Christ’s one joy, abiding joy, fullness of joy—such is the portion of the believer who abides in Christ. Why, O why is it that this joy has so little power to attract? The reason simply is: Men, yea, even God’s children, do not believe in it. Instead of the abiding in Christ being looked upon as the happiest life that ever can be led, it is regarded as a life of self-denial and sadness. They forget that the self-denial and the sadness are owing to the not abiding, and that to those who once yield themselves unreservedly to abide in Christ as a bright and blessed life, their faith comes true—the joy of the Lord is theirs.” -Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ (italics added)
I feel like the quote above, though meant to discuss the joy found by abiding in Christ, can just as easily be redirected to how people feel during the Christmas season, myself included.
I think we often put so much pressure on ourselves to craft the perfect Christmas that we forget how to celebrate the true joy of the season. Usually at this point I am running around shopping for Christmas presents, stressed about time and money and everything else that the holiday season brings.
Every year my family makes an agreement that we will only purchase one gift per person and call it a day, and every year we break that agreement because it doesn’t feel like enough. And yet, on Christmas morning there is an icky in the air because we feel that we have somehow let each other down.
What causes this? Why is it that we feel that we can never do or be enough, especially in this season? Why do we still desire and require more materialistic things, despite the fact that we have everything that we could ever need?
Maybe—no, definitely—we are seeking joy in things that will never satisfy. We are looking for objects to fill the heavy emptiness (That sounds weird but isn’t that how you feel, too?) in our hearts, rather than something bigger.
For me, I think the issue has been that I have failed up to this point to intentionally prepare my heart for the coming of Christ. I have always, I think, had a very secular view of Christmas, seeing it as a time for gifts and food and family and movies. I don’t think any of those things are necessarily bad or wrong, but they are just that: things. Of course they won’t satisfy the needs in my heart like Christ can. I’m not sure that my thinking has ever shifted, even after coming to know the Lord.
This year I have been able to join the Hallahans in their Advent rituals. Every day we open an envelope that gives us a different activity, like making cookies, having a Christmas dance party, or doing something nice for someone else. These activities aren’t super spiritual or anything, but I have come to a profound (for me) revelation as a result. There is such great anticipation in the house as we wait to hear what the activity of the day is going to be. It also helps build anticipation for the Day itself, the day that Jesus Christ came down to earth.
Another activity that helps us understand Christmas is the Jesse Tree. Each evening (or every couple of evenings because life happens), we read a short bible story and hang a corresponding ornament on the tree. This helps us to learn how every single piece of the Old Testament points back to our desperate need for a Savior.
I LOVE traditions, and so the Jesse Tree and Advent Envelopes fill my heart up. They are helping me remember that it is, in fact, December, even though I’m living in an eternal summer. They are helping me prepare my heart to welcome the King on December 25. Most of all, they help me remember that we are still continuing in this season of waiting even long after Advent is over. Yes, we are continuing to wait for the second coming of our King.
Going back to the quote at the beginning, I have to ask myself, “Do I really believe that my joy is found in Christ alone? Do I know for sure that this is the happiest life that ever can be led, abiding in His love?”
This season, my sense of delight is found in the little bundle of joy in a manger. May He come quickly and deliver us from this tainted world.
Please pray for Uganda as a whole. We’ve been experiencing a lot of rain and flooding this month (it’s technically supposed to be the dry season, so that’s weird), and a lot of damage has been done. People have lost their homes and their lives. Please pray that the Lord would put a buffer of protection over those who are in danger.
Please pray for WGM: Uganda as end of the year reports come due and accounts are reconciled.
Please pray for everyone who is traveling home for Christmas: students, families, and ya girl!
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!