"Let Go, Lift High, Rejoice!" photo of child raising hands praising the Lord, Copyright 2011 Gena Buskirk-Ford, Gateway PhotoArtistry™
Frantic shopping, party-hopping and frenzy baking are only a few distractions from having joy around Christmas. If you’ve seen the episode of “The Neighbors” where the mother is trying to get ready for her daughter’s birthday party, you saw her obsess about the party details to the point of micro-managing. My daughter turns to me and says, “That’s like you, Mom.” I know I get irritable and particular when I plan get-togethers, but I didn’t think I was obsessive. Even with taking into consideration that kids tend to exaggerate about their parents, there was some truth to her observation. Christmas is one of those occasions when my “control-freak” nature can rear its ugly head.
To try and change the pre-Christmas preparation atmosphere for our extended family’s Christmas dinner this year at our house, I’ve planned ahead more. I have the table nearly set with just centerpieces and a few dishes to place. Potatoes peeled and cut, den is decorated and clutter “hidden” with the help of my niece and brother-in-law. Thanks to my son, daughter and husband, the house is clean. Eggs are boiled and peeled to make deviled eggs, celery and onions are cut for oyster stuffing (yum!), and the turkey was cooked and carved yesterday with my husband’s help.
I wasn’t completely successful in remaining calm, but I was better. Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service made me refocus my attention on why I love Christmas - celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord Savior and Redeemer. I want to center myself in the joy of Christmas, but it takes some discipline and some intentional choices.
Over the past year, I have powerlessly and sadly witnessed at least a half dozen marriages of extended family members and friends where spouses have separated and their children feel betrayed. What makes these family crises even more distressing is that most of them are Christian marriages. I want to help “fix” their marriages, but all I can do is pray for miracles of reconciliation.
Recently, our country stood helpless as the news scrolled across our computer and TV screens about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Twenty innocent children and six adults, some heroic, died that dreadful morning. It’s hard to be joyful at Christmas when you can only imagine the grief these parents, teachers and community are still enduring.
Yet, as my husband pointed out to our kids recently, we can choose to rejoice despite our circumstances. Who does that? I mean, really, how is that humanly possible?
That’s the catch -- without our Lord Jesus, it is impossible! Paul told us through his letter to the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Within his own strength and determination, Paul couldn’t have rejoiced in his circumstances while he wrote this letter. He wrote the book of Philippians during the first century while in prison waiting for trial. Keep in mind, first century prisons are more like dungeons filled with unsavory criminals, human waste, and disease-infested rats! It was far from a place you would find joy!
Despite his situation and an uncertain future, Paul chose to rejoice and encouraged others to do the same, no matter what their circumstances. I have not mastered “choosing joy” in all circumstances, but I’m learning how.
There is an unseen Enemy that seeks “to kill, steal and destroy” all that God has created for good in this world. Our Enemy wants to steal the Joy of Christmas and have us focus on the overwhelming sadness and despair we find our world in or in our own lives. The last thing he wants is anyone rejoicing over the birth of Jesus!
So, I am “reclaiming the joy of Christmas” despite the circumstances our world is in, despite dissolving marriages, reckless criminals and life-altering illnesses. Our family has come through some pretty intense illnesses and injuries this year, including our dog! I could choose to let our physical challenges interfere with my joy, but I CHOOSE to reclaim the joy of Christmas that I can only find in Jesus!
I encourage you to CHOOSE to RECLAIM the JOY of CHRISTMAS! Don’t let the Enemy steal the joy that God expressed in flesh through His Son Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no joy! With Jesus, there is joy immense and overflowing!
Gena Buskirk-Ford, Gateway PhotoArtistry™
"Reclaim the Joy of Christmas" © Copyright 2012 Gena Buskirk-Ford, writer/photographer, Gateway PhotoArtistry™, www.gatewayphotoartistry.com.*