Did you ever have a Christmas where you wanted a specific gift SO badly? For me, it was when I was about 10 or 11 and I had asked for a sewing machine. I wasn’t sure I would get one because I knew they were expensive, but I thought if I got a sewing machine, all my hopes and dreams for crafting would be fulfilled.
Christmas came around and my wish came true; I didn’t get a brand new sewing machine, but I got something even better – my great grandmother’s sewing cabinet, complete with an old Singer machine that was still in prime condition and drawers full of thread, needles, and all the accessories I would need. I was absolutely thrilled! For several months I loved making quilts, crafting DIY clothes, sewing scrunchies, all kinds of things. But eventually, my fascination with the sewing cabinet faded and I wanted other things to play with. The initial happiness I felt at receiving this gift fizzled out.
As adults, we often think the same way about things we want, albeit in different ways. Our wish list might include things like a larger car to fit a growing family, a raise to keep up with inflation, or even healed relationships or bodies. We know each of these things would improve our lives if we got them. But like my sewing cabinet, they only offer temporary happiness, not long-term joy.
It’s easy to mistake happiness for joy. Happiness is our response to outward circumstances, whereas joy comes from the inside. For believers, joy comes from our relationship with our Father and the assurance we have of salvation through Christ.
But what if you’re not feeling joyful this season? I found myself in a similar situation last Christmas, when I longed for a child but still had empty arms. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one, just lost your job, or family tension makes the holidays more stressful than celebratory. It’s difficult to be joyful when our circumstances are anything but. When there is a disconnect between our heads and our hearts, it’s best to turn to scripture for the truth. The Bible tells us a lot about when and how to be joyful:
- Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
- Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
- But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you (Psalm 5:11)
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that I believe is best cultivated by gratitude and praise. What better time to praise God for what has done for us than at Christmas? Like the angel encouraged the shepherds to “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” we can also praise God for the birth of His son, who brought us salvation (Luke 2:10). While we don’t have the same experience the shepherds did getting to meet Jesus on earth, we can still be filled with joy that we will see him again: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). We have joy because we have hope for our future with Jesus.
Whether you’re excited for this Christmas season and the gifts you will receive or struggling to be joyful despite your circumstances, I encourage you to take time to praise God for what he has done in your life and thank Him for the gift He has already given you in His son. And if you need a little extra dose of joy, there’s a great Christmas carol for that 😊