How to Find Christmas Joy

get joy

This week I write about joy.

There is joy, yes, a deep kind of unshakeable joy, but layered over the top there is emptiness, space,  yearning. I’ve decided this is good.

Longing precedes peace. Looking precedes joy.

I went to a store packed with Christmas stuff this week. I strode past the cheerful sales clerk who offered to help, thinking I could find what I sought on my own. In an attempt to keep things simple I decided not to unpack my giant Christmas crèche this year. It didn’t seem right to have Christmas without a baby Jesus though. I wandered through stores packed with stuff looking for a small manger scene. I paced past candy canes and Santas and ornaments of every description but I couldn’t find a baby Jesus anywhere. I finally asked. They don’t have any. Christmas decorations everywhere, but no Christ, no Jesus anywhere.

The absence of what I sought made me long for it more. All month as I write about hope and peace and joy, the first thing I notice is my yearning. When I try to write about peace a kind of inner chaos happens. Longing precedes peace. Looking precedes joy.

beauty from brokenness joy

My family is a mosaic formed out of the sharp-edged broken glass of two earlier families. Usually these days I am aware of the good that emerges out of the brokenness, but Christmastime has a way of reminding me of the jaggedness that remains.  Idealistic images of Christmas arouse an awareness in me of what is not. I shiver in the cold and ache to gather close around a cheerful fire and then I begin to look for Jesus.

Real Christmas joy

Real Christmas joy isn’t sugary Christmas-cookie-turns-out-to-be-not-such-good-news-when-you-step-on-the- scale-in-January fleeting joy. Christmas joy is more-real-than-the-evening-news good news.

Jesus didn’t come to give us a month of heavenly denial before we go back to muddling through in the muddy world.

Jesus is God who invaded the darkness stealthily in the form of a baby. He didn’t stay silent in the night. He took on darkness in hand to hand combat. Now he is in the process of finishing the job. He is eradicating evil and darkness wherever he finds it, somehow active in both the aftermath of the mass murder of innocent school children and in the darkness of the remaining shadows in my own heart.

We are not alone.

That is the joy. We are not alone in our broken jagged spaces. He is God With Us, and he is with us holding our hands in the dark until the light overcomes it. And it will overcome it. Christmas joy, the deepest joy, is not the joy of everything is perfect now, because it isn’t. The deepest joy is that the light shines in the darkness. The darkness will not overcome it. The light will keep shining. Someday the darkness will have to flee completely.

I believe in joy.

joy and sadness at Christmas

I believe in joy even when my heart aches.  I am thankful for the ache that prompts me to be watching for the light of the world in the dark of night.

While I wait, I shift my focus to all the gifts of light I already have. I see glimmers every day:  laughter that echoes up from the basement, warm hugs by the door, the smell of cinnamon, and the flickering light of candles in the dark.

For other posts in this Advent series click here and here.

 

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  1. Loved vs. Lonely on Christmas | Beth Ratzlaff - December 30, 2014

    […] This is the last in a four part advent series. For the other posts in this series click here and here and here. […]

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