Finding Christmas Joy (When You Feel Like a Scrooge) (Sep-Dec 2007)

By Matt Dabbs

by Nancy Twigg
September – December, 2007

“I wish Christmas would just go away!”

Not exactly a warm holiday greeting, is it? And not a great way to start the Christmas season, either. I know, because I was the one who said it at the beginning of the holiday season several years ago.

That particular year had been difficult for my family. My husband Michael and I had faced major setbacks. I made the Scrooge-like comment during a conversation in which Michael and I discussed whether or not we should get a Christmas tree that year. Our finances were particularly tight and we both knew that even $25 for a small tree was more than we should spend.

Have you ever wished you could bypass the December holiday season altogether? Maybe illness, financial struggles or family conflicts throughout the year drained you emotionally, leaving you with little energy or desire to participate in holiday rituals. One of the most stubborn Christmas myths is the idea that no matter what challenges a person faces during the rest of the year, seasonal joy will somehow automatically kick in around December 1st.

If you have ever wondered how you could muster up Christmas joy, you aren’t alone.

I knew in my heart that we should save our money, but I wondered how I could possibly get in the Christmas spirit without a tree. I felt depressed and even a little deprived. To top it off, there wasn’t much money available for presents, either. How could Christmas be merry when we had so little to give?

Intellectually, I knew Christmas is not about what kind of tree you have or how much you spend on presents, but emotionally I needed a reminder. Thankfully, I got that reminder just a few days later. It came as I was thinking about what I could come up with to substitute for a tree. Then I remembered our Joy ornament.

The first year we were married, Michael and I made a Christmas ornament that became a permanent part of our collection. From thin plywood, Michael cut out the shape of the word JOY approximately a foot wide by eight inches tall. I painted it beige and outlined the letters in gold. During our first few Christmases, we used it to decorate our mantel. Later, we attached it near the top of our Christmas tree each year, just below our cornhusk angel tree topper.

When we originally made the ornament, I didn’t give much thought to its meaning. But something changed that particularly meager year as I dreaded celebrating without a large tree and lots of presents. I realized that the Joy ornament could teach me a lesson about true Christmas joy if I’d only let it.

As a child, one of my Sunday School teachers taught me that the letters in J-O-Y stand for Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. She said that if you want to be truly happy, you must keep your priorities in that order. If you get them mixed up, you won’t have true joy. When I thought about it, this simple equation seemed like the perfect way to find Christmas joy even though my initial attitude toward the season was anything but joyful.

Let me share with you how I put this J-O-Y principle to work. Putting Jesus first, I committed myself to celebrating Jesus’ birthday in a way that would be pleasing to Him. He didn’t come into the world with a lot of meaningless hoopla so I don’t think He would want me to celebrate that way, either. Instead, He’d want me to celebrate with the very things that are so hard to give during the busy season. So in the weeks before Christmas, I looked for ways to give Him quiet reflection, purposeful introspection, and wholehearted appreciation.

To put others second, I made a commitment to find creative ways to give of myself while giving within my means. As I cooked up and crafted homemade gifts for family members and friends, I tried to add little extra touches to make each gift special for the recipient. Instead of feeling badly that I couldn’t buy expensive gifts, I focused on using my time and talents to express my love.

Putting myself last meant letting go of any preconceived notions of what an enjoyable holiday celebration was supposed to be. I knew that if I busied myself enough with the first two objectives, there wouldn’t be much time left for feeling sorry for myself.

This plan worked like a charm. Instead of wishing the holidays would go away, I soon found myself looking forward to Christmas. If this year you find the thought of holiday happiness and good cheer repulsive, I encourage you to try the J-O-Y principle. You will most likely find, as I did, that experiencing Christmas joy is easier than you think when you keep your priorities in perspective.New Wineskins

Nancy TwiggCelebrate SimplyNancy Twigg is the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions and A Month of Mites: 31 Devotionals on Simple Christian Living and her newest book, From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out. Her passion is inspiring Christians to live more simply. For more information about Nancy’s speaking and writing ministry, visit countingthecost.com. or www.nancytwigg.com. Clutter To Clarity

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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