WRITTEN BY: Keri Harvey
When I think of joy, I immediately have a picture that every moment of my life should be filled with gut splitting laughter.
Of course I know by now that joy is a choice, but it seems like it should be so much easier to find joy, rather than having to choose it all the time.
My life is full. This Christmas will no doubt be beautiful. Of course I have the stress that comes from having a big family and being a working mom, but I have no reason to be unhappy or discontent. But to say I am always joyful? That is a standard that I am not sure I measure up to.
Sometimes I can see joy more clearly when I look back, like at the first Christmas we faced without my mom.
She was the epicentre of our home and certainly the uncontested host of our holidays. My husband and I married right before she passed so we hadn’t established our traditions yet. My sister and her husband weren’t ready to fill those shoes and my dad was still trying to figure out how to function without the woman he had been married to for 35 years. We were all lost without a map of how to do the holidays without her.
My dad called us in November that year and announced that we were checking into a hotel and going out for Christmas dinner. “No one will host, there will be no pressure”, he said. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief but still dreaded this season, knowing that it would be painful. There was no way it wasn’t going to be painful.
The calendar page turned and Christmas Eve was upon us. We drove across town to the hotel that my dad had booked for our family and checked in.
No one was denying that this was going to be a rough ride. We didn’t force anything; when we wanted to share a memory but couldn’t finish through the tears, we all just looked at each other and nodded. “There will be better years,” we would whisper.
We did a sweet little gift exchange sitting on the beds at the hotel. We went swimming and cuddled my sister’s little ones and told them stories of Christmases long, long ago. It was so different from our normal celebrations. Previous years were filled with laughter, traditions, beautiful meals, Christmas mornings in our jammies and so much nostalgia it felt like we would pop.
You couldn’t have convinced me that one day I would look back at that Christmas and cherish it as one of my favourites, but it most certainly is. It was a beautiful gift wrapped in a painful package.
Sometimes our greatest lessons about joy come wrapped in unique packages. Jesus taught us this. He knew that His humble arrival would be the beginning of a gruesome end. Even still, there was joy.
“He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him”. Hebrews 12:2
We know that Jesus wrestled with very real apprehensions about the cross while He was in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:46) but it was JOY that gave Him the courage to endure the cross and it was JOY in knowing that this one beautiful act would break the curse of death off of us all.
Joy to the world indeed.
This Christmas I pray that you will find that kind of joy. Maybe it’s not the kind found in beautiful magazine covers or Hallmark movies, but the real joy that only Jesus can bring. Jesus, the one who is making sense of the messes in your life. Jesus, who is making everything beautiful in His time and Jesus, the One carrying you when you feel like you cannot carry one more thing.
Joy… a gift, wrapped in so many ways.
Joy to YOUR world this Christmas.