On this third Sunday of Advent are you singing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” or are you singing “oh woe is me, when will this end”? This Sunday’s theme is joy, but by this time of December joy is long gone for many people. Every day I read articles about how to cope with the stress of the Christmas holidays; most of those articles offer the same advice to just not let yourself get stressed. Just as frequently I see or hear references to the fact that depression rates increase dramatically at this time. Our pastors and church leaders remind us to stay focused on the reason for the season. Joy seems to flee far from our lives when the Christmas decorations come out of their storage boxes.
I love Christmas and everything that goes with it, even the busyness that goes with it. As a young mother I threw myself full force into Christmas thinking that I had to do everything in order to get the full benefit from the season. I felt I had to bake several dozen cookies every night because my co-workers did so. I felt I had to send a Christmas card to everyone I knew because my mother always did so. I felt I had to make embroidered and smocked outfits for my daughter or she would appear pitifully dressed (in truth she disliked anything dressy). I felt I had to go to every party and event and serve on the committees that planned and executed them. And, there was the tree and house to decorate in every nook and cranny plus maybe a holiday meal to cook.
Now I am older and wiser. I’ve learned that I can still enjoy Christmas without doing all the things I thought I had to do. If I don’t bake a single cookie or send out a single card, guess what…Christmas still comes. I’ve learned to pick and choose my commitments. I still decorate like a fiend, but that’s because I enjoy those decorations.
The simple truth is that we get so wrapped up in the things we think we have to do that we squeeze joy right out of our lives. We really should just put “keep joy in the season” at the top of the to-do list. Keep joy in your activities and if it seems to be left behind remember that Christ came to bring us joyful living and died to give us eternal life. Remember the good news the angel shared with the shepherds.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 NIV
Scriptures to contemplate: