Happy 2016! I hope you enjoyed your celebrations of our Savior’s birth. I myself did have a merry Christmas. However, even though it’s only the second day of the new year, our decorations are already down. I’m pretty sure this is a record for me. I took them down this morning, quite happily. With each string of lights unwound, and every ornament returned to storage, I was putting 2015 behind me.
It’s not that 2015 was a bad year, really. Sure, there were challenges, but the year also brought many, many blessings. Still, I found myself struggling with sadness throughout the year. Come December, I had little appetite for decking the halls. I have to confess that my kids had to drag me into the Christmas season. (I thank God for them!!) Pretty much the only reason the Christmas tree made it up is because they started begging to decorate as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over. So, the first weekend in December, I relented and brought in the decorations from the garage. I left the kids in charge, but I have to say, once they got started, I did start to feel more festive. I pulled up last year’s Christmas playlist and danced around the living room while my elves adorned the tree.
But not every night leading up to Christmas was so jolly. To be honest, celebrating Advent was a struggle. One night when my daughter came looking for me, I tried to negotiate: if we could skip Advent that night, I would make it up to them with jumbo deluxe activities the next night. Well, she wasn’t having it. :D But I’m glad she did not take no for an answer. (And I’m extremely glad for the list of Advent activities that I so cheerfully posted back in 2014; also somewhat incredulous that I had the energy to cut and paste 25 little red and green envelopes. Fortunately, some activities require little to no planning, which came in handy on the nights where I had the least energy. I also gave myself a break and did one hands-on/food activity per night, instead of two).
Anyway, I’m so thankful that we took the time to read the Scriptures about the birth of Jesus, even when I did not feel like it. It did me well to sing, “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night,” when my preference was to stay in bed.
Things started to turn around a few days before Christmas. I was alone in the car, listening to a news program on the radio, and a song that played briefly during a transition caught my attention. I intended to check the station’s website to find out the name of the song. It was a melancholy tune, and I realized that the reason I wanted to download it is because it would make great wallowing music. I could picture myself listening to it loop over and over again. And it seemed to me like I was making a plan, a conscious effort, to reject joy. I was choosing despair. It’s not merely that I was overly focused on my problems (though I probably was). Or that I needed to focus more on my numerous blessings (though it probably would have helped). The joy of the Lord is independent of my problems and my blessings, and I was paying no mind (literally) to joy. Joy depends only on Him. Along with love, peace, gentleness, and more, the fruit of His Spirit—that lives within me—is joy. And here I was selecting a playlist for an anti-joy party.
But God has my clothes picked out for a much better party:
I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
This is not to say that I merely flipped a switch that afternoon, and I expect to be sadness free forevermore. Or that every day of 2016 I will feel as hopeful as I feel today. I know that some days, I will have to make a conscious effort to choose joy. But I don’t ever have to find joy, conjure up joy, or create it. It is always available to me because He is in me. And He will never, ever, ever forsake me.
Thank you for stopping by,