A letter to all of us about Joy– the kind we can’t find at the mall

Dear all of you “Christmas joy makers”, this letter is for you and for me. I know you’re out there. You probably don’t even think you have time to read this little letter. You have Christmas joy to make. It’s a big job, I know. I see you racing about, eyes on the clock, lists in hand. I hear you on the phone in the never-ending check-out lines making all the plans. Christmas won’t come if you don’t make it. I know.

I see it in your eyes as I pass you in the crowded store aisles, you’re looking for the joy, but you need it in green in a size medium and no one seems to have any in stock. I know. I’ve been searching for it too. 

I have my eyes on my own list and you and I, we keep bumping into each other as we navigate this most wonderful time of the year. And I see my own reflection in your tired eyes.

I wonder if you, like me, feel a bit like the Grinch after he sneaks into Whoville and steals Christmas away. Are you pretty sure that you have to hold all of the things in your ever-growing pile on the back of your sleigh or the whole holiday might just roll down the mountain?

I can totally relate to Max, the dog, here. Anyone else?

Yeah. This time of year is delightful and glorious; full of music and lights and hope. But there is a lot to do. And I can quickly get lost in all that doing.  You too? So, I have to relearn this same lesson. Every. Single. Year.

The joy isn’t mine to create or buy or produce. And Christmas doesn’t come because I do it all right or get it all done.

You [God] will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

The joy is found in the presence of the One who invented it. No one else makes it like Him.

Can I whisper that in your ear as you race around making Christmas happen? Can I speak it into your heart as you collapse tired and frazzled from all that still fills your to-do list?

“Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

His kingdom. The one that comes to earth through a baby sleeping in a manger, a mother exhausted from childbirth and travel and a father worried about provision for his family.

That is Christmas. Into that, Christ came.

The kingdom was ushered in quietly on a cold dark night and proclaimed from the heavens to only some tired shepherds out in their fields.

The kingdom that is to come never looks like we think it should. This is the kingdom that brings joy in ways which have nothing to do with our human ability to make it all happen.

The joy of Christmas is God’s delight in coming to dwell among us, his people. His joy at proclaiming: “I will put my law in their minds and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor or his brother saying,  ‘Know the Lord’, because they will all know me from the least to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

He came to rescue us from all the doing. And I keep forgetting.

He came so that we would know him here in the real places where we live; in the middle of the Christmas crazy. He came so that in the middle of the aisles at the crowded stores and the roads jammed full of cars every single tired one of us would know how much he loves us.

So take a deep breath. Ride that toppling sleigh full of stuff right down the mountainside and be amazed that Christmas will come without packages, ribbons or bows … or the teacher gift you forgot to buy, or the cookies you burned.

It will come, anyway. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

That’s why. It’s God’s joy to give us Jesus. The joy we’re looking for is his, and he freely gives it.

Let that sink in deep for a minute.

Now, go on and do all the things. I know, someone has to.

But maybe this Christmas?

Keep your eyes open for a joy that you can’t make or buy and be overwhelmingly surprised by all of the unexpected places it shows up.

And I’ll be looking for you in the checkout lane at Target. We can try to keep our kids from buying that huge pack of Hubba Bubba and remind each other that it’s going to be okay.

Christmas joy? We’ve got this. 

Merry Christmas, friends!

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