Experience abundant Christmas joy this advent season – the kind that is deeper than presents and even picture-perfect family time.
When I was a child, I remember the sheer elation I felt when I ran into our living room and saw a brand new GameBoy sitting underneath my stocking on Christmas morning. I’ve always been the “stuff” person in our family – begging to open presents early, making a wishlist a mile long, and flipping through the Toys R Us catalog with a heart full of longing. As I got older, my desire for stuff shifted from toys to kitchen accessories, but I still felt a thrill opening up new and shiny things on Christmas morning.
And then, gradually, something shifted. It was kind of like that scene from the Grinch when he had that moment of realization that everything he believed to be true about Christmas was just a cheap imitation.”It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags…Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I shifted my focus away from the presents and onto people. I focused on experiences – building gingerbread houses with kiddos, going caroling with friends, and baking cookies with loved ones – all of the things a good cheesy Christmas movie is made of. And, it was happy alright!
But just in the past few years, I’ve been able to take that Christmas joy to a whole new level. A level that isn’t dependent on people, experiences, or things at all. I still enjoy and appreciate all of those things, but they are no longer the source of my joy.
Grow In Joy This Christmastime:
Draw Nearer to God
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” – 1 Peter 1:8
God is the source of my joy. That seems like it should be obvious (He is the reason for the season, after all), but it took me years to really start to grasp that idea. When I was craving the stuff, I was expecting those things to add to my life and better it in some way. When I was focusing on the experiences, I wanted to create Instagram-worthy moments of smiles and warmth and laughter. When I started seeing all of those things as blessings from Him, it brought a depth to my joy that I’m not even sure I can describe in words.
Seeing all of those happy Christmasy things as gifts from a God who loves me so much that He sent His one and only Son to a world of darkness brought a depth to my joy that I’m not even sure I can describe in words.
He is the source of all good things. Spending time with Him, learning more about His character and His faithfulness through His Word, and seeing the world and all of the people in it through “faith eyes” changes everything. It brings light to the darkness and moves my focus from falling in love with the creation (GameBoys, KitchenAid mixers, and gingerbread houses) to falling in love with the Creator.
Drawing nearer to Jesus naturally brings more joy into your life. It’s more than just knowing about Him, it’s abiding in Him that brings perfect joy.
“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” – 2 Corinthians 8:2
Having a heart of generosity fuels joy. In our human reasoning, we think that when we give, it means we have less of something. We have less money, less candy, less stuff for ourselves. And, on the surface level, maybe that’s true! There is absolutely an element of sacrifice to generosity.
But we don’t serve a surface-level God. He breaks through our logical limitations and tells us that when we give, we are the ones who are blessed, not just the recipient! I’m not just talking about physical, monetary things either.
There’s a heart-set behind generosity. It’s about sharing what God has given you with others from a place of love, not obligation. It’s not about expecting something back in return (even a happy reaction from the person you give to!). Whether you are giving your time, your talents, or your money, when you humbly offer the things you have to someone else, it brings joy and it blesses you.
Adjust Your Expectations
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12
The joy that Christ brought to the world is unconditional.You don’t have to wait until that difficult season in your life is over. You don’t have to get the perfect Christmas gift before you can feel joy. You don’t have to wait until your kids are delightfully obedient. You don’t have to have the perfect Christmas tree (thank you, Charlie Brown, for that lesson!), a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts, or a flawless picture on your Christmas card.
The only prerequisite for joy is a relationship with God.
When the dog breaks your favorite ornament, your wrapping job is lumpy, and the Christmas cookies burn, remember that your joy is rooted in Christ! It gives you and the people in your life the freedom to be perfectly imperfect and still experience abundant joy this holiday season.