For the first time in many years I put up a Christmas tree. Nothing fancy, just a humble (live) table top tree purchased at a local grocery store - originally $19.99 but marked down to $4.99. One strand of mini lights was more than enough. I woke a few ornaments from their hibernation in the dark dusty recesses of my attic. The rest of the house was supplemented with a wreath on a door, a few holiday knick knacks here and there and some candles for additional ambiance.
The gifts I received were just as simple – a shawl, a candle, handmade earrings (Barbling #1 custom-designed earrings), to name a few. None were of great expense. No diamonds or furs or trips to Europe; no big toys or electronics. Just modest presents from people who love me – and who I love back.
I don’t know why I chose to decorate this year. There was no surge of holiday cheer in my heart. This Christmas has been no better or worse than others. In years when I decked the halls more extravagantly, I didn’t necessarily feel more of the Christmas spirit then, either. I think at that time I was trying to manufacture glad tidings – “fake it ‘til you make it” – hoping to acquire some holiday cheer. I was trying to keep up appearances; I didn’t want to be thought of as the sad lonely spinster - Ebenezera Scrooge.
This Christmas Eve I attended a church service with friends. It was informal – some reading of scripture and singing of carols. Lots of singing! Some of the hymns chosen were upbeat – “Hark the Herald” and the like. Some were soft, ballads – the ever popular “Silent Night”. Others were almost mournful and pleading – “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” and “I Wonder as I Wander”. It wasn’t an emotional or inspiring affair; nor was it uninspiring. It was enjoyable and it was…reverential.
At times, during the singing I felt moved to stand in worship to my King. I felt happy without being giddy. No enthusiastic shouts came from my mouth and I didn’t feel compelled to buy a gigantic Christmas goose for the Cratchit family, a la Scrooge. Though stirred emotionally, amazingly (for me) I didn’t tear up.
What I felt was joy. Not delight or bliss or ecstasy – those aren’t joy; not really. They’re too circumstantial. Those feelings are contingent on events and environmental conditions. No, joy is the full knowledge that everything I will ever really need is provided for by my Creator because of what His Son, Jesus began on that first Christmas and finished on Easter, thirty three years later.
I haven’t felt “joy” in a very long time and when I have, it’s been fleeting. This was partly because I had wrong assumptions on what joy was and because my expectations of what would give me joy were overblown. This year, I just wanted to mark the occasion of my Savior’s birth in some way.
My simple Christmas decorations are not Martha Stewart-caliber. No one will feature my home on their Pinterest boards. My wreaths and tiny tree didn’t win any contests. A line from the song “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” from the holiday cartoon classic “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” comes to mind. The Cratchit family tells of their modest celebration singing:
We’ll have the Lord’s bright blessing
And knowing we’re together
Knowing we’re together heart and hand
We’ll have the whitest Christmas
The very brightest Christmas
A Christmas far more glorious than grand
My Christmas 2012 was not grand but it was Glorious – with a capital G. The glorious part gave glory to God in the Highest. Not because of anything I did – no impressive gestures of generosity. Most definitely NOT because of some magnificent decorations or gourmet baking. It was Glorious because for a time, sin and sorrow did not reign in me. He replaced it with His grand joy.
This joy did not happen because I decorated a tree. The tree was decorated because of the joy I felt. It’s been a long time coming. I pray it stays around awhile.