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I don’t have many fond memories of Christmas. Something always seems to go wrong — family relationships become strained, financial stress is heightened and, behind the candy canes and smiling Santas, there’s a melancholic loneliness. As an adult, I’ve found that Christmastime has lost most of its magic and instead symbolizes a season of stress, loss, and grief. By the time the first Christmas songs start playing on the radio I feel a cold numbness that signals the impending holiday blues. Apparently I’m not alone — according to a survey by Healthline, more than 60% of Americans experience elevated stress levels during the holidays.

However the world around us tells us that we must celebrate — from office holiday parties to finding the perfect tree or indulging in Oprah’s Favorite Things. There’s a significance on Christmas that differentiates it from the other 364 days of the year. For some, Christmas is the best time of the year. There’s an unquenchable excitement and indulgence in the festive atmosphere that characterize the season. For others, myself included, Christmas can be a lonely time, as well as a season of remembrance. It can be a somber time of reflection on a particularly challenging year or on relationships and loved ones that have come and gone.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, Christmas can evoke a wide range of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to melancholy and despair.

I’m often tempted to become a Scrooge, to decry the holiday and sit it out until the new year. But try as I might, eventually I have to face the music — literally — those Christmas carols and anthems that we know by heart, whether it’s Mariah belting out ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ or Bing Crosby’s classics. It seems that every radio station is determined to make us remember that it’s Christmastime.

And yet, since becoming a Christian in adulthood, there is a new significance I’ve placed on the holiday. Even those classic carols take on new meaning, like this one I heard the other day:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come

Let earth receive her King

Let every heart prepare Him room

And Heaven and nature sing’

Joy to the World — one of the most ubiquitous songs of the season. These simple lyrics remind me of what Christmas truly represents and why, especially as a Christian, it is all those things at once: a time of celebration, remembrance, and most importantly, a time of joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let earth receive her King.

A child, a king, born in a humble manger, is certainly a far cry from the festive and regal ways we typically celebrate births today. Yet Jesus’ birth was a momentous occasion, for in that moment a promise was being fulfilled. God became a human being and established a new path to hope that redefined what it means to rule as a King. Jesus’ life on earth turned society upside down: he espoused compassion and love for the poor and the lost, demonstrated humility by serving others, and died so that we might live forever.

Let every heart prepare Him room

When I think about what Christmas truly represents, my heart begins to soften in humble remembrance of what he has done for me — how he has put amazing people in my life, and provided ample opportunities to find joy and grace in the wilderness. As a result, the stresses, anxieties, and sadnesses that still whisper in the wind begin to become overshadowed by an inexplicable peace and the unsurpassable, steadfast joy that stems from being together with Christ.

Let heaven and nature sing

There is joy in knowing Christ, even and especially if we find ourselves in rough seas during this season. When we refocus our hearts and attitudes towards one of unhurried worship, praise, and gratitude, we find joy in the one who knows and loves us so intimately and unconditionally. And so while Christmas and birthdays come once a year, the knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done for us is accessible every single day.

And that is a reason to celebrate.

Kathryn is the founder of That’s What She. After years spent roaming through the wilderness, she met Christ as an adult and hasn’t looked back. An avid lover of storytelling and prone to run-ons, she hopes to embark on this journey with all of you and learn quite a few things along the way.

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4 Replies to “Discovering Joy When You Might Feel Like a Scrooge

  1. So good to hear from you and your heart, Kathryn! Your kind encouragement is a comfort as I sort through all the expectations of the season! Focusing on He who loves us most just brings such calm to my scurrying brain!

    1. Thank you Julie – so good to hear from you! I hope this season is filled with peace and joy in spite of the craziness. Looking forward to more of your writings and hope you’re doing well!

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