Simple Is Better – 6 Easy Ways to Keep the JOY! in Advent and Christmas
Gratitude Day 863
Luke 1:18: Zachariah said to the angel, “But this is impossible! I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Recently, I had a conversation with a dear friend. Things have been happening within her immediate family. Difficult things. Hard things. She has watched her children grow further and further apart. She’s not sure they have any desire to be in the same room with one another. It’s early December and she has angst about Christmas gatherings. Will they all show up? Does she want them to all be together? Will it turn out to be a hot mess?
She might feel like this expression some others feel right now: BAH-HUM-BUG
Let’s be honest. For most families, picture-perfect Christmas celebrations aren’t a reality. Instead, we try to navigate life’s unexpected situations. How do we try and find joy in a season so central to the Christian message when our hearts and minds may not be in the right place? How do we find hope, peace, love and joy when our hearts and souls feel discombobulated?
Going back to the original Christmas stories helps us see the main characters struggled with this. In the stories before the Christmas story, we see that happened the way it should. In this story of holy surprises, we can discover hope.
The Christmas story actually begins with the priest, Zechariah. He carefully selects Elizabeth as his wife. While they lived blamelessly in God’s sight, there is one problem. Elizabeth was barren. She couldn’t have children.
One day, Zechariah performs a special blessing at the Temple. An angel comes to him and tells him that he’s going to be a father. Elizabeth is going to be a mother. They will have a son. They have waited soooo long. It is finally going to happen!
Zechariah isn’t excited. He is overcome by fear. Unbelief. Doubt. Instead of being thrilled, Zechariah say he’s too old. So is Elizabeth. He asks, “Why NOW??”
Ever feel like God shows up a day late and a dollar short? “I could have used you last week or last month, or last decade, God.” Why NOW??
We cannot control many aspects of our lives. What we can control is how we react. We choose if we celebrate a gift, even if it arrives later than we would like. We decide whether to focus on different timing or celebrating the gift.
Mary also finds herself in a precarious situation. Chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world, she’s engaged. She wants to have a family. But NOW?? Before she’s officially married? How will she explain this to her fiancé?
Mary takes a “But NOW??” situation and realizes unwanted journeys do not happen when it’s best or convenient. When horrible timing comes or way, how will we respond?
Mary said, “Yes.” Can we?
Joseph, Mary’s fiancé finds himself in the middle this crazy and wild story. He has found the “perfect” Jewish girl to be his wife. He doesn’t have much to offer. He’s just a carpenter. He can promise to care for her, provide and remain faithful to her.
When he finds out that his fiancé is pregnant, he must have been heartbroken and disappointed. Does he end the engagement, which, is basically getting a divorce? If he lets Jewish religious leaders know about Mary’s condition, she could be stoned to death for being pregnant outside of wedlock.
Joseph could have asked, “Why ME??” This is not what Joseph signed-up for. Instead, God assures Joseph to stay with Mary. He chooses mercy over judgement. Love over doing the easy thing. Compassion over walking away.
When we find ourselves in unwanted journeys and difficult choices, do we choose mercy? Love? Compassion? Yes, relationships need boundaries. God wants us to consult with God when we find ourselves in these ridiculously challenging situations. We can’t depend upon our own information because sometimes, we get it wrong.
When we hear the ancient stories of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, we see that life is hard. We find ourselves in unwanted seasons. The Christmas story reminds us that we aren’t alone in these unwanted seasons. Others want to be with us. These difficult journeys will, hopefully, not last forever. There may be many ups and downs but there is life beyond difficult seasons.
God’s love meets us in the middle of our messes if we allow them. God chose to make something new when God brought God’s son into the world. Throughout Advent, and every day of our lives, we are challenged to choose whether or not to let something new happen in our lives because of God’s love.
When we call ourselves Christians, we are not guaranteed life will be easy. Faith in God will often be rocky. Even as we ask, “Why NOW? But NOW? Or Why ME?” God has not forgotten you. When life is messy, God has not forgotten YOU.
This is the story of Advent. The story of Christmas. They show us that we can go through difficult seasons, unplanned life journeys and still find God’s hope and love.
Hope. It’s what we need this Advent. I pray we find hope in Emmanual, the Light of the World this Advent.
For the encouragement to find HOPE this Advent and Christmas, I am grateful.
Loving God – please be with those who are struggling this Advent and Christmas. You know their situations. Their struggles. May we remember that the people of the first Christmas struggled and so can we. Amen.
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