We know all too well that the our relationship with the real meaning of Christmas is so easily lost in the cultural trappings of December 25. It's become more a holiday than a holy day. The real meaning of Christmas is found in our relationship with Jesus in the simple, in the ordinary, which is what today's episode number 46 is all about. To that end, I have a few resources to help with this, which I'll share with you at the end of this episode, so please stick around for that.
I don’t know about you, but as much as I enjoy all the festivities of Christmas, there’s something inside of me that longs for things to slow down, so I can reflect on the real meaning of Christmas.
There are so many things that create the illusion of meaning, that while they contribute to the aura and ambience of Christmas, really have nothing to do with what Christmas is supposed to be about.
The music, watching favorite Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life!, family get togethers, the food, the decorations, and did I mention It’s a Wonderful Life!? I enjoy all of this. A lot. But at times I find it all a bit hollow. I find myself wanting more. I’m pretty sure many of you feel the same.
Where is this Joy to the World we sing about each December?
If you’re a person of faith you know the answer to this already, for the Joy to the World we sing about is because the Lord has come. The real joy is found in Jesus coming to our world, and in doing so, in this most spectacular event in all of human history, he came to ordinary people in an ordinary place.
There’s joy in knowing Jesus came to the ordinary, because we are all ordinary. There’s nothing exceptional about us that isn’t there because God placed it there. Our intelligence, our creativity, talents, gifts, they are all there because of Jesus.
The more we embrace our ordinary-ness, the greater joy we will experience because it gives God more room, a larger playing field, to make something wonderful out of us, which in turn brings glory to Him.
One simple thing we can do this Christmas to embrace our ordinary-ness is to read. What could be more ordinary and simple than that? To read about who we are, who Jesus is, and how we relate to each other. We need to be reminded of this. Now I’m not talking about reading a 900-page Russian novel. I’m thinking something short and to the point. Something just a bit longer that you’d find on the back of a cereal box.
Here’s an example. Four or five years ago I stumbled upon a delightful little devotional book by Mel Lawrenz called Christmas Joy. There’s a brief chapter for each day in December leading up to, and including Christmas. And each of the chapters focus on just one word or concept related to Christmas. It’s really good stuff for calming our hearts in the midst of all the frenetic holiday activities.
Today for example, December 11th, the day this episode is released, Chapter 11 is entitled “Bethlehem.” I’ll read it to you, it’s only six short paragraph.
[Read pp 51-53]
Now that didn’t take long at all, did it? I go through this book, Christmas Joy, every December. You can get it on Amazon, and retail bookstores I’m sure. I’ll have a link to Amazon in the show notes.
Here’s what I’m learning today about finding joy in the ordinary.
It’s important that during this Christmas season we look for joy, not in the glitter and activities that come around once a year, but that we look for joy in the ordinary, in the simple, that’s hiding in plain sight right in front of us all year round.
To do this we need to create some quiet space during the holiday season in order to think, reflect, and anticipate. We may have to be ruthless in doing so. “No” could be your word of the month. You and I could both come up with a list of all the the things that distract us from the real meaning of Christmas. So you don’t need me for that. The point of saying “no” to these things that don’t matter, is so we can say “yes” to the things that do. And you don’t need me to remind you of that either.
What we both need is room for Jesus to speak into our hearts and minds with his gentleness. To show us the quiet path to the Joy found only in Him. And the only way we can accomplish this is through the power of Jesus. We need him to do this for us; we can’t do it on our own.
Here’s the one thing, the main thing, to remember from today’s episode, our show in a sentence:
Embrace our ordinary-ness, for out of it can come something quite wonderful that gives glory to God in the highest.
Here’s what we can do in response to today’s show.
Besides reading the rest of Christmas Joy, by Mel Lawrenz, and doing it slowly and meditatively, there’s a similar book you could read, and that I’m reading for the first time, right now. It’s Kay Bruner’s Comfort Ye My People. It too, has 25 very short chapters, none longer than two pages. Each one is to be read each day leading up to Christmas on December 25.
But unlike Christmas Joy, where the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke provides the text, Bruner’s book uses key phrases and passages of scripture cited in Handel’s Messiah. I find her commentary on theses passages comforting. On Day 5, for example she write, “I think we need to understand that when we find ourselves broken and in trouble, that’s pretty much normal…What we need is someone to save us and heal us. And we are promised exactly that. Messiah.”
But if reading isn’t your thing this Christmas, how about taking a few moments to listen? It’s such a simple and ordinary thing to do. To listen the thoughts of others as they ponder the great truths of Christmas. I have two suggestions along those lines.
The first is to listen to a new podcast that came out this month, Advent with Jill Briscoe, sponsored by tellingthetruth.org You can get it wherever you get your podcasts by just searching on the title, “Advent with Jill Briscoe.” It’s only 25 days long. The episodes are very short and it’s easy to catch up with all of them before Christmas.
Listening to even just a few of them will help put the Christmas season into its proper perspective.
And the second and last listening option is something I paid $10 for two years ago, that I can use every Christmas. It’s from author and podcaster Emily P. Freeman, It’s a series of 14 brief audio devotionals called “The Quiet Collection”. You can check it out at emilypfreeman.com/christmas/.
It’s still only $10, and for that you get an email each of the 14 days before Christmas with a brief audio reflection on all things having to do with quiet and Christmas. It’s not too late to sign up now. And you can listen in again next year, as I’m doing for the third year now.
I’ve also been listening to her weekly The Next Right Thing podcast since it first came out a year ago or so (this one is free). You might want to check that out too at emilypfreeman.com/podcast/.
I love listening to her soft and soothing voice. Her content is very engaging. It takes me to a deeper place where I can reflect upon the important matters of Christmas, even in the midst of all the things that don’t matter.
As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, I want you to know I intended for this to be the last episode of Season Two, with Season 3 to start up again in January. But I’ve got one more Christmas episode I want to share with you next week, and then I’ll let you know what I’ll be doing for you before Season 3 starts. More about that next week.
Our Relationship Quote of the Week
If today is shaping up to be an ordinary day for you - be prepared. That’s the stage on which the acts of God are played. ~ Mel Lawrenz
That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.
Resources mentioned in Today’s episode
Christmas Joy, by Mel Lawrenz
Comfort Ye My People- The Real World Meets Handel’s Messiah, by Kay Bruner
Advent with Jill Briscoe, sponsored by Telling the Truth
“The Quiet Collection”
Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing