The Joy of Christmas

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 18, 2010

"Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. She gives most who gives with joy."
Mother Teresa

This year I have been thinking about the emotions of Christmas. And one of those emotions which always dominates this time of the year is the joy of Christmas. You can see it in the eyes of a child. You can hear it in the Christmas music. You can feel it as you decorate the tree. 

There are those who struggle with their joy during the Christmas season. The empty seat at the table or the missing Christmas card in the mail are bold reminders of a joyful past and a sad present. War and poverty and racism can sap all of our joy. The headlines scream at us that in many places the world is dark. 

But in spite of that darkness, Christmas is a season to focus beyond the sadness to joy. I think that is what Dale Evans Rogers had in mind when she said, "Christmas waves its magic wand over the world, and behold everything is softer and more beautiful." Even through tears we can find the joy of Christmas. 

I think one of the best ways to restore the joy of Christmas is to immerse ourselves in the joy of giving. When we were children we naturally thought that the joy of Christmas was receiving gifts. Whether your family opened your Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, the anticipation of what we were getting for Christmas was enough to fill us with all kinds of joy. 

But as adults, do we not find our greatest joy in giving something to someone else? I remember in 1989 when my mother died, Evie hired an artist to paint from photographs my family farm where I was raised. I will never forget her words to me about a week before Christmas, "This year I am going to win the prize for the best 'it's the thought that counts' gift." Her joy was enhanced by the joy she was giving me by that gift. That picture is on the wall of my office and I don't know if she or I get more joy from it. 

Kevin, our youngest son, recently reflected on the same joy of giving when he said how much he loves giving things to his son Noah. He plans and saves and strategizes on ways he can make Noah happy and in the process his own heart overflows with joy. Contrary to his days as a child, he now says that Christmas is all about Noah. Every parent understands that. 
Bing Crosby had this in mind when he said, "Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white.'" As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." 

And when we think of giving to restore the joy of Christmas, we don't need to be limited by a sparse budget because, as someone wisely remarked, "The gift without the giver is bare." The value of the gift is not its cost but its meaning to us and the one receiving it. That's why I like how Charles Schultz described it, "Christmas is a race to do a little something extra for someone." 

Of course this pattern of giving was given to us by the first gift of Christmas. You cannot read that story without finding the joy of the first Christmas around every corner. The Magi experienced it. The angels experienced it. It was truly everywhere. 

As Dick Foth says: 

He left His place 
To come to our place 
To take our place 
So we can go to His place

And if that doesn't bring us joy at any time of the year, nothing will. 

Merry Christmas! 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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