Cultivating Joy

Today’s Devotional is offered by Julie Earnhardt. 

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him…

Every year you hear people complaining about how much they are dreading the approaching holidays. You know you’ve heard it too. Christmas brings chaos. How will we ever find time to decorate? Our list of gifts to buy is overwhelming. When will we be able to squeeze in enough time to attend all of the festivities? For some the stress of the season evokes much deeper emotions. Trying to mask your feelings of experiencing Christmas without a loved one for the first time can be almost unbearable. Others are faced with financial burdens or a scary diagnosis that can create a sinkhole in your heart that seems impossible to fill. These stressors all serve to steal our joy and make us lose our focus.

I challenge you to pause and reflect. We can choose to make this Christmas different. God has promised us hope and joy!

What brings you joy at Christmas?

Better yet, what brings you that giddy, child-like Christmas joy?

I am sure you have a vision in your head of a Christmas past that was filled with contagious joy. …the kind of joy that makes all of those around you smile! Maybe you immediately thought of a special family tradition, a meaningful gift, a favorite ornament, or possibly a Christmas carol. Chances are you didn’t think about the hassle of shopping, the mounds of boxes cluttering the attic for decorating, or all of the other difficulties that can cloud our thoughts.

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For me, my mind quickly takes me to the Hanging of the Greens service at Oxford Baptist Church. Ever since I was a little girl the gigantic tree in our church has amazed me. The order of service is always predictable from year to year and I wait with anticipation as the candles are lit, the greenery drapes the railings, the wreath is placed perfectly, and the lights sparkle on the tree. Although each part of this service is special to me, I have to admit that it is one particular part that brings me tears of joy every single year. When Silent Night is coming to an end and the entire church is glowing by candlelight, I open my eyes and stare at the Chrismon tree that is twinkling. The piano and organ begin quietly at first and then the most amazing sound takes over. As the arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer rings through the church I feel calmness; calmness that only God’s presence can provide. For a moment I forget about the busyness of the holiday season, I temporarily cast away the worries that have burdened me, and I am completely focused on the real reason we celebrate this season. Joy! Pure JOY! Joy that brings me to happy tears! Joy that gives me a contagious smile to share with others throughout the entire holiday season!

Of course there are other moments of joy that I could share from each holiday season, but I invite you to stop and reflect for yourself.
What ordinary events during Christmas give you true joy?
Joy is a choice.
Joy is a choice that God wants us all to experience this Christmas and every Christmas.

Sure life is hectic. Sure we are faced with circumstances that we wouldn’t choose, but I encourage you to find the simple moments that give you great joy so that you can truly focus on the birth of the Holy One. The greatest gift of JOY ever given to each of us!

Prayer: Dear God, Christmas can be a real celebration of new beginnings if we choose to focus on the joy of a tiny baby born in a manger instead of the distractions. We ask that you help us to find genuine joy in the chaos that each day brings. Thank you God for simple reminders throughout this Christmas season that you are always with us. Thank you God for giving us the greatest gift known. Help us to share your JOY with others! Amen

I challenge you to join me in creating a “Joy Jar” with your family. Over the next few days leading up to Christmas, spend time each day alone thinking about what brings you joy during the hectic days right before Christmas. What or who has brought you joy at a difficult moment? What or who helped you become closer in your walk with Christ during this time? I invite you to take some time Christmas morning to share these with each other. I think this could be a great time for reflection, growth, and pure JOY!