On Monday, I was completely transparent with you about my struggles of trying to find joy at Christmas by swiping my credit card, being the hostess you won’t soon forget, and checking off all the to do’s on my very long list of busyness. Have your Christmases resembled the frenzied, fast paced, expensive, over the top materialism seen in every commercial on TV? Mine have! Those commercials are aimed at making us believe acquiring stuff is the answer to where joy resides.
I have sought desperately for joy to overwhelm me and my family as we arose from our warm beds on Christmas morning. I envisioned squeals of joy and happiness that would carry us through the New Year as I geared up to take on this grandest of days. But when I have chased what the world defines as the path to a joyful, happy Christmas, the results more closely resembled a Hallmark Christmas Channel bloopers reel instead of the Norman Rockwell Christmas image printed on the Christmas card we got from my husband’s 94-year-old aunt last week.
I have made the mistake of trying to buy joy with my Mastercard. Guess what! Joy is not available for purchase! Even online. In order to find joy, we must be obedient to the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. As I shared Monday, scripture tells us that joy is one of the many fruits of the Holy Spirit living within us.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Wouldn’t it be great if on the day of salvation, we no longer struggled with our human weaknesses and sinful nature? While we are saved from eternal separation from Christ the moment we accept the gift of salvation, we still have these bodies that want what they want. Until God calls us home, there will be moments where the flesh will rise up and try to disrupt God’s best for us. It is our job as Christians to lean into the Lord during those times. We need to submit and seek God in all circumstances.
As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, He has been shaping my thoughts, teaching me through experiences how to walk closer with Him. The more I yield to the Holy Spirit living in me, the more the fruits of the spirit are apparent in my life. It is my prayer that if you see yourself in the same predicament, you will yield to Him more in your life as well.
Joy isn’t found with a shiny bow holding it in place under the tree or sitting on top of a new car. Has anyone every really walked outside to see that in their driveway anyway? It is my prayer that through this blog, you will not fall victim to yet another year of clever marketing ploys. I want you to remember where joy is waiting for you, not just for this season, but for your entire life. It is found in community, in relationships with family and friends, and with service to one another. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself, being obedient to God, and being present in your relationship with Him –that is how you attain joy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there will not be presents under the tree. I’m saying that isn’t the focus of my Christmas this year. There is still going to be a really big meal, because after all, this is the Southern U.S. and we like to eat! I’m saying it will be one that we created together as a family while laughing and serving each other. When we come together, it’s about celebrating the living God.
In order to do that, long before sitting down to our own family meal, we have come alongside families in our community that are struggling, we’ve spent time with friends and loved ones separated from their families for a variety of reasons, and we’ve worshiped with our church family. Most importantly, we have loved those we’ve encountered. I’m not telling you this to brag. I am telling you this because by putting these things first, I have been most blessed.
I am challenging you to try it this year. Step out of the cashier’s line and put those dollars and that time into someone that needs a friend, be kind to the cashier at the grocery store, and offer a smile to the stranger you pass on the sidewalk. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. You will be the benefactor of so much more than the value of the item you sat back down.
We are called as Christians to love one another. Making that our priority shifts our focus from self to Christ. When we reflect the love of Jesus to those we encounter, we will experience God’s blessing and joy will flow through us. Christ expects us to love one another and to abide in Him by keeping His commands.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37–40 ESV
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9–11 ESV
It’s important to recognize what we are truly celebrating –the birth of our Savior. The day the Lord came to us wrapped in the flesh of man to save us from ourselves. Whatever made me think for even a second that something I could find on aisle nine of the local store could even begin to compare to the joy that came to Earth that day is beyond me.
Because we know as Christians there is so much more awaiting us on the other side of eternity, we can be joyful regardless of what is under our trees or penciled into our planners. We have the truth of the scripture on our side. We know that everything here is temporary and that we are to store up our treasures in heaven where they will not rust and decay.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mathew 6:19-21 ESV
When you accept Jesus as your Savior, eternity changes. Do you hear me? No longer is this lifetime your everything. Now, through Jesus, our lives here are a drop in the bucket compared to what awaits us in eternity.
Lean into God, friend. Joy is found there.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the baby born to a Virgin and the salvation of creation through Jesus. I praise You Lord for the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life to guide my choices and actions. I am thankful for the spiritual fruit that allows me to experience joy even when life is hard. Help me keep my thoughts on You during the Christmas season. Help me to acknowledge that You are in control and want nothing more than a relationship with me. Obedience and walking close with You gives me a peace that ushers in feelings of contentment, hope, and joy. I pray for others to experience that exact same thing. In the precious name of Jesus, I praise you. Amen
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Please note all scripture was taken from the ESV.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.