Joy to the World may not be the song in your heart these days, but after all it is 2020 (at least for another week.) While we all know that the turning of the calendar to 2021 is not going to magically return our worlds back to normalcy, we still cannot ignore the depressing and discouraging aspects of 2020.
Struggling to get into the Christmas spirit is not only reserved for pandemics, but rather has been a long-term problem for many of us. There can be a myriad of reasons why this season elicits feelings that stand in opposition to joy.
I know firsthand the wounds that are repeatedly inflicted upon the soul when joy is absent not just at Christmas, but especially at Christmas. Over the years I have worked several jobs that had peak demand times from October through January. This meant eighty-hour weeks, always bordering on exhaustion, and not much time for anything else. Doing whatever it took to show up and get through the holidays was my default mode. In the early years, I worked on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
It was at least a decade into these kinds of rhythms before conviction swelled over me about my habits of coping with a heavy workload and my attitude and approach to Christmas. The hard truth was that there was no integrity in my attitude or approach. I would outwardly laud the significance of Christmas when internally begrudge everything about it—the gathering with friends, the creating of merriment, and the giving of gifts.
This awakening was a gift from God, even though its execution has been at times shaky at best. Part of the gift was making me consider more carefully what choices and behaviors promoted joyfulness, while at the same time demanding a level of organization and critical thinking that I had not previously practiced. It remains an ongoing struggle most years, but I can attest to it being well worth the effort.
If you, along with so many of us, are having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, it is not too late, and the following list will help restore that triad of hope, joy, and love. Usually, if you can tap into one of these the others will follow more easily.
Tune your heart: by listening to this beautiful rendition of It is Well . Even if these are not words, we can utter honestly, pray that they will be as you listen
Initiate a fun family activity: drive around and see Christmas lights; or
create a hot chocolate bar one night after dinner (yes, even in Florida) include things like whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate shavings, etc.; or call a family member that can’t be with you this year; or do a puzzle, etc.
Play Christmas music
Read the Christmas Story: Luke 2:1-20 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken…
Increase your laugh quotient: Laughing is so restorative and good for the soul
Watch Christmas movies: Let everyone in the family pick their favorite—White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, etc.
Read Twas the Night Before Christmas
Ask your family and friends: What are their favorite Christmas traditions?
Serve: Do something for someone else who needs help
Ask your family and friends: What new Christmas tradition would they like to start?
Create a game night: Set-up a variety of games around your house and invite friends over to join in on the fun
Remember: Our hope is in Christ and Christmas is a celebration of that hope!
Pray: Ask God for a change in heart and attitude
The recovery of joy for the season is not a switch that can be flipped. However, our hearts and minds can be wooed. This is what the above list is all about—the wooing of hearts to rest not just in Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Savior but understanding that Christmas points to a larger promise. The promise that a Savior is coming, and it will be fulfilled at the resurrection, which of course is the celebration of Easter.
Recently, a friend of mine said, “…there is a real upside to Covid-19 because it should cause us as believers to ask:
Is God our Guardian? Does He really govern over our coming in and going out?
Is God our Keeper as seen in Psalm 121?
Do we really believe that God is who He says He is?”
If this season of corona can cause us to pause and think about what we honestly believe this is not just a good thing, it is a great thing. It is in these moments that the restoration of hope begins. In what or whom do I place my hope? The Heidelberg Catechism phrases the question this way, What is our only comfort in life and in death? And then, provides an answer that reflects the depth and elegance for which the Heidelberg Catechism is known:
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
This answer should inflame our hearts and stir up joy, hope, love, and gratitude. These are the attitudes of Christmas. No matter how difficult life is in general or 2020 specifically, the gates of Hell will not prevail. Be encouraged! Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Crosland Stuart, of Crosland & Company, LLC, works with The Collaborative on marketing, recruiting, and content creation. Additionally, she also works in the areas of foundation consulting, communications, and is a literary agent.