My mother passed away in May of 2016. I remember that following Christmas it was hard for me to feel the usual festive, holiday spirit and joy. For most of us, after all, our mothers were the ones who first introduced us to the joys and beauty of Christmas, and many of our fondest childhood memories are wrapped up in this season. I was struggling with trying to feel the joy, this particular Christmas, but I went ahead and decorated our home and our tree anyway; I knew my mother would want me to.
Once the tree was up and decorated, I noticed an empty spot that still needed an ornament, and the thought ran through my mind…Just like the empty spot in my heart. I looked through the boxes lying around on the floor, but no more ornaments were to be found. I went down to our basement to see if I might not find one more ornament stored in another bin. That’s when I came across the Christmas wreath that I had hung on my mother’s bedroom door. In the center of the wreath, I had hung an ornament. Appropriately, it was an ornament of the word “JOY.” Perfect. I went back to the tree and filled the empty spot with the ornament of joy. As I hung the ornament, I was reminded of our Savior who came into this dark world of sorrow and grief, to fill the empty places of our lives with JOY…and after all, wasn’t that what the celebration of Christmas was all about? The angel announced to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you tidings of GREAT JOY!
The Psalmist wrote, “In your presence is fulness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) I decided then and there, that if I indeed had the presence of God with me, then I shouldn’t be harboring grief and sorrow. He hadn’t left me. He had actually promised never to leave me or forsake me. There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is temporary and fleeting, but JOY…well, it is beyond defining; you must allow yourself to experience it. If you allow the joy in, it will dispel the pain. The words joy and joyous are found 245 times in the Scriptures. The word rejoice shows up 150 times, and we’re instructed to be joyful and rejoice nearly 400 times! You can choose to be joyful regardless of your circumstances.
The year 2020 has proven to be rather challenging on many fronts. Consciously, or subconsciously, we have grieved through a pandemic, the unexpected loss of friends and loved ones, political turmoil, riots and unrest, lockdowns and shutdowns, economic distress, natural disasters, loss of personal freedoms, and the list goes on. in the midst of all of this trauma, however, I am reminded of the words of Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET…I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18.)
Habakkuk understood the source of his joy, despite the circumstances surrounding him at the time that were rather bleak. This Christmas season, my hope is that you will choose joy…and that despite everything that has happened this year, you and your family will experience a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter, and the spirit heals with JOY. (A proverb)