I love holidays. And I especially love Christmas.
As tradition goes, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to start Christmas songs, to decorate and get the Christmas tree.
I am pretty sure I was so happy that day I cried.
The last month or so has been extra stressful for me.
A lot of changes, disappointments, and situations out of my control.
I started this holiday season listening to Joy to the World. I've heard this song so many times. It is just 'part of tradition'. Most people probably listen to carols this way - as sort of the soundtrack to the month of December. But I stopped and really listened to the words. I had 'a moment,' as I sometimes do. The lyrics really spoke to me, the way scripture would. It was very poignant. I was brought to tears thinking about what joy really is. It is not affected by circumstances. It is God-given. It changes your perspective and attitude. And when you really take the time to acknowledge the gravity of what God did on Christmas...whoa..how can you not be full of joy?
I love these lyrics from Joy to the World:
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing."
After my Joy to the World moment, I started to listen to all my favorite carols with a different ear. I was so struck by the amount of hope and peace this holiday sings about. I have always loved the way I felt at Christmas but I never really attributed it to the fact that the world (whether recognized or not) is celebrating a holiday of joy, hope, love and peace.
Some of my favorite lyrics from O Come, O Come Emmanuel:
"Oh come desire of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid thou our sad divisions cease
An be thyself our king of peace
Emmanuel shall come to thee..."
Yes! This is my prayer. That one day our sad divisions will cease.
And I then I listened to O Holy Night. I never know the last verse of carols. I know the first verse, no problem. But I really listened this time to the whole song. 'Jesus taught us to love one another... His gospel is peace.'
This verse in O Holy Night put me to tears:
"Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease...
Christ is the Lord! Then ever we will praise...
His power and glory ever more proclaim!"
And I also hear the nativity story every year. But I really listened this year.To imagine the moment when hundreds of angels appeared before the shepherds and sang:
"Glory to God in the highest,
and peace on earth to those
whom God is pleased" - Luke 2:14
This is the God I worship and serve.
A God who entered this earth as a baby, so that God may dwell with God's people.
A God that desires peace and joy on this earth for every person.
God, who is Emmanuel - with us. Now and always.
May you take a moment, lay traditions and celebrations aside
and really ponder the gravity of what Christ did.
May you be filled with the joy, hope, love and peace that comes from God this Christmas.