Joy. It’s a popular word this time of year.
It’s printed on pillows, formed into stocking hangers, and a common refrain in Christmas music.
We want joy. Yet many of us lament we don’t feel joyful during December.
I think the problem is we’re all a lot like the innkeeper in Luke 2, who had no room to offer Mary and Joseph. Thus, our savior was born in a stable and bedded down in a feeding trough.
In fairness to the innkeeper, there was a census going on. Bethlehem was crowded with all those who traveled there to register. The innkeeper didn’t have a sign posted that excluded only Joseph and Mary; he simply had rented his space to other guests.
He was fresh out of rooms.
Most of us have no whitespace on the calendar.
He wasn’t shutting Jesus out specifically.
Neither are we.
But we’re letting it happen all the same. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@kirsten828″ suffix=””]Unless we deliberately save room for Him, the demands of our life will occupy that space in our hearts.[/inlinetweet] And we’ll end up turning Jesus away simply because our “rooms” have been sold to other “guests.”
I don’t want that for myself or my family. I know you don’t either.
I want joy. I want the joy of knowing Him deeply. Of throwing open the doors of my heart to invite Him in.
But I can only do that if I say “no” to something else. “No” is the expression of faithful expectancy of His arrival.
Here’s how I’m saying “no” this year so that I can say “yes” to more of Him:
- Only one Christmas party. As an introvert, I’m happier alone or in small groups, so saying “no” to the others means I have energy left to more deeply engage in worship and study.
- No Christmas cards. I love making them and jotting a brief, handwritten note to those we love. But I’d rather reflect personally on how I’ve seen God at work in our lives this year instead of putting a card together to share those moments with others. Many of you might find the two practices complimentary, but in my case, it detracts from what I need most this year.
- A simple meal on Christmas. There are a few recipes that are synonymous with Christmas for me and we’ll make those. One of which is Russian Hot Chocolate, in honor of my son’s homecoming from Russia on Christmas Eve in 2004. But there are other food “traditions” that I will lay aside this year, in favor of more time to sit with my loved ones. (If they enjoyed cooking it might be a delightful way to share time, but—sigh—that’s not the case for us.)
I often head into December with high expectations. Lofty aspirations of fabulous decorations, a perfectly harmonious Christmas Day amongst my children, and some sort of spiritual “high.” None of those are inherently bad to desire, but I’m hoping that by trying to embrace whatever comes—instead of setting a high standard—I’ll connect more meaningfully to God in the present moment.
To me, this is the incarnation: Jesus came—God, in human flesh—into our present moment and messy humanity.
This is cause for joy.
Is there anything you need to say “no” to this year to preserve room in your heart and life for Jesus this Christmas? I’d love to hear your thoughts; please share in the comments.
Looking for an Advent devotional? Mine is for sale on Amazon.com. Or, if you’re in Boise area, I’ve got a handful of books in stock and would happily arrange a time to get you one directly. Just email me!