Where is Christmas joy to be found? And it IS to be found; it is real, and it is accessible. As I reflected last week, St. Paul tells us that we should, “Rejoice always,” and, “pray always.” I’ll not revisit each of my points from last week, but I’ll remind you that it is in doing all that we do in such a way that we might make it a pleasing offering to God, that we can truly pray always. St. Paul really does mean pray always; it’s not simply an unattainable ideal.
One can glibly say, “well, my work is my prayer,” and then never actually take time for prayer. To make our work into a pleasing prayer does not mean that we should not take time each and every day for focused prayer time. It is both/and; we should be spending time in prayer and also doing our work in such an excellent way that at the end of the day we are proud to present it as a sacrifice to the Lord. That really does turn work into prayer.
This is the very first step toward true Christmas joy — we pray always, so that we might rejoice always. In other words, we put God right at the center of all that we do and all that we are. Each one of us can do as much or as little as we want about that. Is our work a sacrifice of praise, ready to be offered to God? Are all of our interactions sacrifices of praise, ready to be offered to God? Is our prayer steady, daily, and substantial? Those are our very first steps to really experiencing Christmas joy and carrying that joy through the new year. And so, pray always!
‘My faith is important to me’
Secondly, profess! Each of us has something to say to the world, “my faith is important to me! And I want to live in a world where God is God, and where I’ll not have imposed upon me a state religion of atheism!” Each of us must confess with our lips, beyond what we simply believe in our hearts. We need to put pen to paper, and get on the phone and let people know that what we believe is not to be relegated to nothingness, in order to make way for a religion of secularism. Christmas joy is about how we relate to God and about how we relate God to this world, so that the world might know Him and so that their joy might be complete.
Forgive one another
Thirdly, forgive! Jesus was born, He suffered, died, was buried, and He rose so that sins might be forgiven, so that there might be mercy, so that there might be peace. Christmas is a time for putting aside grudges and being reconciled. And that doesn’t mean simply deciding to overlook the fact that somebody has seriously hurt you (and I’m talking about serious matters here), it does not simply mean pretending not be hurt, and hoping that life can go on, with problems unresolved. That is not forgiveness and so often when people do this, the anger and the hurt deepen, leading toward some kind of big blow-up and the severing of a relationship forever.
If there are really serious problems with grudges and the need for forgiveness, Christmas is the time for facing these issues head-on. Real forgiveness means apologizing to the one whom I hurt and talking it out, not trying to pretend that there was no hurt. The Scripture says, “let not the sun go down on your anger.” Well, let us not allow another year to close on our anger, and that will be a great step to Christmas joy.
Carry out good, firm resolutions
Fourthly, resolve! The last medicine I’ll offer for Christmas joy to be carried through the year is to make some good, firm resolutions. True New Year’s resolutions have to do with the presence of God in the world and they have to do with forgiveness. At this time of year it has become a fun game, and a joke, to say you’re making this or that resolution, when in fact you know that the resolution will be broken by tomorrow. We can certainly have our fun, but that has nothing really to do with serious resolutions, befitting the person God is calling us to be.
What about God in the world, and what about forgiveness? New Year’s resolutions grow out of the heart of Christmas, and the heart of Christmas this year needs to be praying always (including with our work) and standing with God in a world that says it wants to be a world without God, and the heart of Christmas needs to be in forgiveness.
Carry the Christmas joy
Praying, professing, forgiving, and resolving, these are the ways I’d propose for us to find Christmas joy this year, and these are the ways that allow Christmas joy to carry into the New Year. By His holy word, God says to us, “rejoice always!” The Lord does not say, “may you rejoice always,” or “I’d really like you to rejoice always,” He gives a command. If God gives the call, God gives the Grace, and so if He is commanding us to rejoice always, He will make it real.
I pray that every Christmas joy will be with you and yours this Christmas and into the New Year. Thank you for taking the time to read this. The savior is born for us! Glorify Him! Praised be Jesus Christ!