“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”—Matthew 2:10 (ESV).
Overhearing a conversation at my doctor’s office waiting room, I silently agreed with the two women. They were discussing the hectic rush of preparing for Christmas. The joy of this wonderful season was obviously gone for them.
Joining in their conversation, I said, “The commercial aspect of Christmas can suck the joy right out of you—if you let it.”
One of the women asked, “What do you mean?”
What Did I Mean?
Until I returned to my faith and church services and activities over 20 years ago, I’d lost my Christmas joy. I was tired of the commercialism and stores displaying Christmas decor in early October. Explaining how my denomination celebrated this season, I shared our traditions, some of which are also observed in many other denominations.
I’ve cut back on secular activities unless they bring me joy. My focus is on Jesus’ coming to earth as a baby and the anticipation of His return one day. It’s a time for me to reflect on Him and what He did for me. He left the comfort and presence of His Heavenly Father to enter the earthly realm in a smelly stable.
I also spend less on gifts and look forward to spending time with family, including attending Christmas Eve candlelight church services. It’s something I anticipate with joy, especially when the lights are turned off in the sanctuary. Glancing around, I observe the flickering lists of hundreds and hundreds of candles held high as we join in singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
Anticipating Christmas with Joy
In Matthew 2, we read about the wise men traveling hundreds of miles across the desert to seek out the infant Jesus. The arduous trip took months, not days and they came bearing expensive gifts for this precious child.
I doubt the three wise men complained. Instead, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” What made the difference in their attitude as they neared the end of their journey? Their focus was on Jesus, the One who is called “Immanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Pastor John MacArthur said, “If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”
The Truth About Christmas
As I continued to discuss Christmas with the two women, one said, “After the packages are opened and crumpled wrapping paper is picked up, I feel such a letdown.”
“Before I gave my heart to Jesus,” I said, “I was focused on counting the number of shopping days remaining, constantly checking my gift list, and feeling I had to do everything because it was expected of me. I was so stressed, I didn’t really enjoy Christmas and was relieved when it was over.”
Now, I spend time rereading the gospel of Luke each morning, beginning on December 1. I take time to slow down and just soak in the goodness of God. “He loved us so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). And that’s the best reason to celebrate Christmas with a joy-filled heart.
After a 30-year teaching career, Carol Round found redirection as a Christian columnist, author and inspirational speaker. She is the author of nine books, all available at Amazon.com. See her website at www.carolaround.com for more information.