Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
I can’t sing a lick! It’s just a fact. But, I also love Christmas Carols. So, chances are if you are next to me in church, or hanging in my kitchen this time of year you might think that some strange creature is howling at the moon right next to you, only to realize I’m singing (Ha!)
Also, there is just never the proper punctuation to convey a joke in written form.
Oh well, I digress.
As you can tell, I’m feeling a little jovial this morning. It’s one of those things that happens when I wake up and see that beautiful (even if it is tipping a bit to the east) Christmas Tree.
My memories of hunting the perfect Christmas tree goes back a long way. Back to the days when I was growing up in North Idaho, where our Christmas tree farm was comprised of the better part of a mountainside. Here in the Midwest we actually have farms for Christmas trees, which has always made me chuckle.
Still the memories are fond: Driving up some perilous two-track in the family’s rear-wheel drive car. Trekking through thigh-deep snow looking for that perfect tree, only to catch a glimpse of the expression on my dad’s face change from happy tree hunter, to ax/saw wielding maniac! My sister and I frantically trying to run through the deep snow as he chased us.
This is no joke. This was my family’s tradition until we moved to the Midwest when I was in high school. Ahh, good times.
And so, to the great trepidation of my Midwest born husband, whom I might add, had a family tradition that included a fake tree most of his life.(Please note: this is not a judgement if you choose a fake tree. I’m just stating a fact. ) Yeah on that first year we were married, I insisted we hunt a real tree.
“What’s the big deal? It’s just a Christmas tree.” He wondered.
Just a tree? How could he say it was just a tree?
We scouted out a local tree farm. For real. Still so odd to me even twelve years later.
What we brought home was a 10 foot Blue Spruce. What transpired next? Well… we proceeded to have our first real fight as a newlywed couple.
I’m not even kidding. That tree almost caused us to renounce our marriage vows, right there on the spot!
Let’s just say my husband did not appreciate the whole process of slogging through the cold and slush while having his bride carefully inspect every. single. tree.
I knew what I was looking for. It had to be that perfect cross of Christmas Card Perfect with a touch of Charlie Brown. You get that, right?
I did find it. All 10 feet of it. And of course I would pick one of the prickliest trees in all of Gods creation. We wrestled it into the back of the truck and headed home. Then the thing wouldn’t fit on the stand we had, so we had to get a bigger one. Then there was the matter of getting into the house, and still it wouldn’t stand on its own. Somewhere from under that tree came a lot of words not fit for repeating. Above, I began to resent my insistence on the whole idea. We snapped and we snarled at one another. And just like that this tree had gone from a joyful symbol of the season, Gods grace, and fond childhood memories, to a symbol of life’s trials.
Sure we can look back at this story and laugh, …now. It honestly wasn’t a bit funny on that day. But, it just goes to show just how easily, how quickly we can let our joy be snatched away. What started as a beautiful continuing of a tradition, and the start of a new tradition, quickly became a trap, and a snare.
I feel like John 10:10 has been a recurring theme this holiday season. It seems like, these days it is harder to hang on to joy. It is harder to feel grateful, it is harder to be happy.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.
It feels like there is a very real thief prowling about looking for those still small, joyful moments and working quickly and often quietly to snatch them away. Gone, is the joy and the peace that we so carelessly flaunted a few moments ago.
But, here is the the thing. This “thief?” He has no right to your Joy. He has no right to your Peace.
That baby in the manger, came to bring “Joy to the World*,” he came to give you peace.* He came that you might have an abundant life. Life filled with plenty. Not plenty of things. Not a perfect life, or life that would not see sorrow. But, he came that you would have plenty of life. He came so that you could have Eternal Life.*
It’s one of those big picture things. And when we have our eyes on the big picture, the whole thing is beautiful isn’t it? When we have our eye on Him, there is a whole abundance of Joy isn’t there? But, still we know the big picture is made up of millions of little brush strokes. And some of those brush strokes land wrong, and some don’t follow the line we planned and some… Well, sometimes we think because of those wrong strokes the whole thing is trash.
If I’m honest. It is hard for me to have joy in the little moments. In the moments when the house will never stay clean, when the car is on it’s last leg, when the job is too hard, when the money is too tight, when there is want and suffering and pain and heartache in the world. When I feel I can change nothing. When I am stuck in pajama’s because there was no time to breath today, let alone get a shower.
Joy sometimes seems a distant memory. Joy is sometimes too far away to even hope to grasp. Joy get’s stolen right out from under my nose.
Ann Voskamp did a piece on this 3rd week of Advent. She spoke of Joy being like a woman in labor. She shared John 16:20-22
20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
It was such a poignant reminder to me that Joy will come. Even in the moment of struggle, when we think the pain is more than we can bear, Joy. will. come. It already has, and it surly will come again, because HE came, and He is coming. Hallelujah!!!
May The LORD of Hosts fill you with his joy today.