How Do We Experience a Special Kind of Joy at Christmas?
Christmas joy is splashed all over our digital devices and in our stores. After all, it’s a great money-making season for businesses. However, all the right reasons point to Christmas as a joy-filled season, as well.
Christmas is when Hope was born. It was when Jesus came to earth as a man in the form of a sweet little baby. Christmas also reminds us of family, gatherings, giving, food, and all kinds of wonderful. But in our humanity, we tend to turn what is meant as good into something not. We rush and push to fit too much in. We struggle with boundaries and we are reminded of those we don’t want to gather with and those that we desperately miss.
So how do we keep our Christmas Joy? Let me start with a painful but funny personal story!
It was on one of our first dates when my dreaded kidney disease introduced itself to my husband. Our plan was not a kidney stone visit to the ER, but then again, who likes plans?
I was a professional kidney stone passer after experiencing over 50 of them in my life, so the routine wasn’t a new one for me. However, I wasn’t quite ready for this new man in my life to witness a rather raw and not-so-pretty version of myself!
As I sobbed in pain and curled up in a fetal position, I made desperate (but failed) attempts at sporting my hospital gown in style.
Can you say mortified? I wondered if this guy would stick around or politely bow out after this date!
But instead of bowing out, he did what I now know he always does in these situations. He brought humor and laughter into the midst of my hurt.
Sobbing – laughing – sobbing – laughing. I’m not sure what the doctors thought of me, but I highly doubt stable was a word that came to mind!
Hours later, with the pain finally managed and my kidney-stone-catching gear in hand, I went home to finish birthing another prized baby rock.
I tell this story because I think we forget about joy and all that goes along with it. We forget to laugh in the midst of our busy and we begin believing there is no room for joy in the day-to-day.
You see, through my own personal hard times, there’s something I’ve learned about life that is really quite simple.
Laughter is a gift that eases the pain.
And it naturally spills forth when our hearts are humbled in gratitude to God.
But, friends, has that truth been lost on us? The miracle? The gift?
Have we forgotten the forever life-changing event that happened one night long ago? Is that why our gratitude is often lacking? Is that why our spirits are not humbled by the God who came to earth that night?
When we think of the lineage of Jesus. The generations of chaos and dysfunction. Broken lives and broken dreams. Yet God did as He promised to make all things work together for the good. He aligned every life and every moment. He broke through every obstacle to prove to us His love would never fail. His promises would never come back empty.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -Romans 8:28 NLT
Shame, a census, nor no room at an inn could stop God from coming down to live among His people. To love us, redeem us, and set us free from the darkness of our sin.[bctt tweet=”Shame, a census, nor no room at an inn could stop God from coming down to live among His people. To love us, redeem us, and set us free from the darkness of our sin.” username=”lori_schumaker”]
When I soak in the depths of this miracle, I am humbled in gratitude. A gratitude that changes everything.
Because without gratitude, hope cannot live and joy cannot abound.[bctt tweet=”Because without gratitude, hope cannot live and joy cannot abound. #joy #ChristmasJoy #hope #gratitude” username=”lori_schumaker”]
Gratitude toward our Savior opens our hearts to the adoration of Him. It confirms the surrendering of ourselves in faith. Only when we have given ourselves to Him, can we fully experience His uncircumstantial hope and joy.
But today I think we are much like the inns that had no room for Mary and Joseph. They were so full they missed the life-changing moment of the Savior’s birth.
And we, too, are so busy and our lives so full, we miss the life-changing impact of His birth.
Then, we miss out on the fullness of gratitude.
On life-giving hope.
And on the joy that lives within us despite any and all life circumstances.
The joy a thief can never steal.
For our family, this Christmas looks different. Although I’m a passionate lover of all things Christmas, I had to significantly cut back.
It was a challenging “straw on the camel’s back” sort of year. One that is forcing me to say “no” where my heart wants to say “yes”.
Exhaustion may have instigated our decisions, but along the way, God revealed something else. A beautiful good He is making of our mess.
Through our trials, He is bringing us back to the heart of life-changing joy. To the heart of gratitude. And to the miracle of the baby born that night.
The one who came to set us free. To give us hope and to fill us with joy.
But how do we do it? Aside from a circumstance that stops us in our tracks, how do we hold onto life-changing joy at Christmas?
I don’t have all the answers for your particular situation, but I can tell you what I’ve learned about Christmas Joy through my experiences.
1. It starts in the remembering.
Remembering the miracle of that night. A love so deep and so strong, no obstacle could deter it. Not coming in grandeur, but as a humble baby in meager surroundings. He gave up Heaven for us.
2. Then leads to prayer.
With reflection on the miracle in our hearts, we reach out to God. We praise Him, thank Him, and adore Him for His great big act of love. For the freedom we have. The victory in which we can walk. And the hope we will never live without. We ask Him to be our guide. Our wisdom. Our discernment. And our strength.
3. Next is listening.
It is critical. We speak in our time of prayer and then often run. But we need to stay a bit longer to hear. Listen, soak, and sense His presence and the direction He wants us to take. What needs to go and what needs to stay.
4. Then obedience.
A courageous step forward with Christ. Doing the next right thing is often the same as doing the next hardest thing.
5. Surrendering expectations of perfection.
As we obediently did the next right thing, it may go against the grain of perfectionism. It may not be as pretty, as many, or as often as perfection demands. It’s when we acknowledge God as the only author of perfection.
6. Canceling false guilt.
The next right thing may disappoint others. The enemy likes us believing we can please everyone and when we don’t, we feel guilt. Condemnation. That is not of God. We cannot please everyone. If we know our actions are pleasing to God, we can trade that guilt for truth.
7. Finally, adding laughter.
Set the to-do list aside and smile. Relax. Rest in a faith that says God has this and it will be okay. A late box mailed to a special friend? It’s okay. Laughter is a manifestation of joy. Make room for it. We must live our joy out loud!
My friend Kathe Wunnenberg, is joining me. She is the author of four books: Hopelifter: Spreading Hope When Life Hurts, Grieving the Loss of a Loved One, Grieving The Child I Never Knew, and Longing for a Child.
Friends, she truly is a Hope Lifter. Because she understands grief well and has walked it’s painful path, she is joining me here to share with you, Hope for Holding onto Joy When Your Heart is Grieving at Christmastime.
Missed the other Holding onto Christmas Joy Posts?
Post 1: Choose Hope this Christmas with these 13 Gift Options
Post 2: How to Plant Hope in the Hearts of Our Children During the Holidays
Post 3: Seeing Through the Holiday To-Do List
Post 4: 5 Ways to Make the Holidays Less Hectic and More Meaningful
Our Story of Hope
Would this book make the perfect Christmas gift for someone you know?
Surrendered Hearts is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com, and Redemption Press.
Don’t Miss Out!
Surrender and joy go hand-in-hand. But surrender is something we have to work on and practice daily!
I’m so sorry you have a kidney disease and have had so many kidney stones, Lori. My husband had one, and he was rolling on the bed in agony. I’m so glad though that all the trials are leading you towards Jesus and a life-changing joy in Him. God be with you and give you strength and peace for each day! Hugs!
P.S, Canceling false guilt is a real toughie for me. 🙁
Hi Trudy! You are so sweet♥ Thankfully, ever since I’ve had children, my kidney disease dramatically improved. I still get an occasional stone, but nothing like before! It’s as though the changes in my body and hormones caused it to lay dormant. God was definitely working in that whole story, though!
I’m praying right now for God to literally flash an image of a stop sign through your mind every time false guilt begins to form. Then I am asking Him to fill you with His courage to replace it with truth!
Thank you, dear Lori ?
Trudy, my heart always feels so happy when I get to bless others! Hugs, my friend!!
So much truth in your post, thank you for sharing. Some how I always forget the laughter part, so I think this December I will look for more times to laugh.
Praying that this month your laughter is abundant,sweet Kira!
Love. Love. Love this! Yes, laughter!! And if your man can make you laugh in the middle of passing a kidney stone . . . wow, no wonder you knew he was a keeper. Rev makes me laugh like that. We’ve laughed in many hospital situations and know the blessing of grace covering those less than wonderful moments. Thanks for this! Sharing it all over!
I’m so thankful, Deb, for the gift of a husband that makes me laugh! I’d be too deep all the time without him! I think us deep writer-types need that complement in our lives! I hope I get to meet Rev someday. After all the sweet stories, I just know I would love him!!!!
My hubby makes me laugh like no one else, and it makes me love him so much more. I love your kidney stone story! Your hubby is so awesome. 😉
Thanks for this reminder about joy, my friend. This is such a great post. Sharing everywhere!
Praise God for hubbies who take us out of our “deep” thoughts to make us enjoy the simple things in life! Love you!!!!
Oh man…kidney stones are the worst. I had to have surgery to have one removed and waited with a migraine before due to having to fast. I agree that like the inn keepers, we can be so full and so busy that we miss out on the true meaning of Christmas. And it’s always hard to cut back when we just want to give to make others happy, but I pray that God will fill you and your family with joy and peace. Your Christmas series looks wonderful! It looks like I have missed reading a lot of those posts and I can’t wait to catch up and read your uplifting words. The guest post for next week looks so good too! Love you, my friend!
Dehydration is the number one cause of kidney stones. Even with my disease, it is highly controlled with enormous amounts of fluids in my system at all times. But a migraine and a kidney stone? Sweetheart! I call it victory that you lived to tell the story! lol! But that is seriously AWFUL! Love you back BIG!
Lori- kidney stones sound painful, are they as bad as birth? Makes me shiver thinking about it.
I loved this post! Your tips are excellent about how to find joy this Christmas. I’m sharing this!
Blessings special friend!
Kidney stones are equivalent pain, but no beautiful baby at the end! lol! Just a itty bitty rock! So glad you enjoyed these tips!!!
You are such an inspiration and encouragement Lori! I love you!
You, my friend, are an inspiration to me, too! Love you back!