Joy to the World
One reader asks: “I don't like to admit this, but for the past several years I have dreaded the Christmas season. I know that Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy but for me it has become a season of sadness. Am I the only Christian who feels this way? Is there something I can do to recover the true meaning of Christmas?”
One of the most popular Christmas carols is entitled “Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come.” Christmas is supposed to be a special time of celebration and joy. It’s a time when families get together and recall old memories and create new memories. At Christmas, we remember the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ and in honor of His gift to us we give gifts to each other.
Unfortunately, for many people the Christmas season has become a time of loneliness, sadness and depression. For many, Christmas is one of the most discouraging and difficult times of the year. Why is it that a season that should be associated with praise and promise has become associated with pressure and pain?
The commercialism of Christmas is a major distraction. During the Christmas season we are bombarded with advertisements on radio, television, in newspapers and magazines. The noise, glitter, shopping mall hype and commercialism make it easy for us to take our eyes off of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas to focus on the lists of things we “must” do to make this a good Christmas.
Another reason is that the Christmas season is one of the busiest and most exhausting times of the year. It's no surprise that the Holmes-Rahe Stress Test lists Christmas as one of the significant stressors that can have a negative effect on people.
There are school, Sunday School and church Christmas programs. The home must be decorated. Meals must be planned for, purchased and prepared. Christmas cards must be purchased, signed, addressed and mailed making sure you remember to send a card to everyone who sent you one last year.
Then you need to shop for presents, purchase them (often on credit with money you don't really have), wrap them and get them to their destination. This leads to another problem . . . debt. Most people spend at least the first four months of every new year paying off the debt accumulated trying to have a “Merry Christmas.” It doesn't take long for Christmas to become associated with more work, more pressure and more debt.
Due to the intensity and busyness of the Christmas season people become drained. Many move into January experiencing emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual exhaustion. This creates the perfect environment for the distortions of depression.
Another part of the problem is that many have unrealistic expectations of Christmas. Those who may not have family close by are reminded of their loved ones and happier times. These warm memories tend to highlight their present state of being alone. While being alone and loneliness are not the same thing, many interpret them as the same.
Are there any other options? Is it possible that this Christmas could be different for you? Here are four simple and specific steps that you can take to help Christmas become once again a season that you can look forward to.
Step 1: Ask yourself, “What is the meaning and purpose of Christmas?”
When you have determined the meaning and purpose of Christmas, you can modify your expectations accordingly. You can choose to see the Christmas season as a yearly opportunity to remember, reevaluate, recommit and resolve. Remember why Christ came. Reevaluate your priorities in light of your relationship with Him. Recommit your life to grow in Christ. Resolve that in the new year you will allow God to help you reflect His love in your marriage and family relationships.
Step 2: Focus on Christ.
You don’t have to let yourself become distracted by busyness of the season. Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. This Christmas make time to “come and adore Him.” How can you do this?
Set aside a regular time every day for prayer and a brief Bible study. Open your Bible and follow the baby from the cradle to the cross. Don't just read about His birth. Turn to Isaiah and the other prophets and reread the prophecies of Christ's coming. Then read about His birth but don't stop there. Continue through the Gospels and read the accounts of His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. This is why He came! He was born to die and rise again. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
Step 3: Make a list of all the things you want to get done.
Revise the list by asking yourself, in the light of the true purpose of Christmas, how many of those items really NEED to be done. With your revised list in hand, ask yourself how many of those tasks you personally need to do and how many you can delegate. Now, pick up the phone and delegate.
Step 4: In the week before Christmas, look for opportunities to serve, build and encourage others.
In Matthew 25 Christ says that what we do to one of the “least of these” we have done unto Him. Who would qualify as the “least of these” in your life? In what practical and concrete way could you be a minister of God's love and grace to them?
It doesn't need to be big or extravagant. Little things really do mean a lot. Several years ago I came across a poem that was written by a young boy who couldn't decide what to give Jesus for Christmas.
What can I give Him, poor as I am
If I was a shepherd, I'd give Him a lamb
If I was a wise man I'd sure do my part
What can I give Him . . . I'll give Him my heart