I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a commercially produced Christmas card or wall hanging that depicts teenagers. It’s all about young children and their families. Perhaps you look fondly back at those “glory days” when parenting was exhausting, yes, but also full of simple joys. Maybe your family is having a rough year, your teenager is rebelling, and the ache of the season just makes sparkly lights and bright-colored wrappings seem like a joke.
My friend, this year of all years, Christmas is for you. The real Christmas, anyway. It’s always something to celebrate, even — or especially? — when the ache of this life seems as if it’s too much to bear.
Giving Thanks for Past Joys
There are plenty of traditions many of us follow this time of year. Whatever holiday traditions you’ve established for your family, it’s never too late to start new ones, ones that help you look back on past rescues, provision, and other good gifts from your loving God. Like the 12 stones in Joshua 4, we can find ways to position physical reminders of God’s grace in our lives, not only to tell the story to others, but to remind our own hearts. Deuteronomy 6:8 distinctly mentions making Scripture visible, which can be part of following the Philippians 4:8 injunction to remember Truth.
Whether you decorate an evergreen this year or not, is not the point: Focusing your mind on the goodness of God is more important than the glitter. As you look back at sweeter seasons, can you rejoice in them without the reminders highlighting the hard times of this year? Then break out the baby pictures and handmade ornaments, and thank God again for such sweet times He gave you in the past!
Finding Beauty in Today’s Joys
Maybe this year, reminders of last year’s joys bring tears. However, even amid the most hopeless situations and seasons of parenting, there is always joy to be found. “This recording our gratitudes, this looking for blessings everywhere, this counting of gifts – this is what changes what we are looking for. This is what changes our perspective,” writes Ann Voskamp. As you purpose to look for and record the simple pleasures and blessings that surround you, don’t be surprised if today’s hard stuff starts to seem a little less overwhelming.
In addition to focusing on the gifts we already have, we can maximize the joy we feel as a result by managing our expectations. When we have unrealistic hopes — or any expectations at all — we lose the ability to delight in the good gifts God gives us; by contrast, when we realize that we deserve nothing, and all is grace, we can enjoy the many good things our loving Father gives us.
In Part 2, we’ll look at how we can look into today’s difficulties and tomorrow’s uncertainties and still find joy, even this Christmas.