The Secret to a Joy-filled Christmas

With just under two weeks until Christmas, a close friend and I cherished a one hour sliver of time over coffee to catch up and encourage one another. Just getting those moments on the calendar this time of year felt like a heroic feat.  After holiday and work schedules, tasks, celebrations, and obligations were duly compared, we breezed out as quickly as we had arrived—off to the next to-do’s in our busy days.


It wasn’t until later that day I realized we had talked through our laundry lists of Christmas doing, but we hadn’t discussed our Christmas be-ing.  As I reflected on that slight distinction, I was convicted of where my heart has been these last days of December.

Gift buying.  To-do lists.  Preparations.  Work deadlines.  Travel.  Entertaining.

I had to ask myself: Have I stopped to prepare my heart spiritually for Christmas aside from thirty minutes during a sermon on Sunday? 

Sadly, the answer was no.

I texted my friend a few thoughts as a means of redirecting our conversation toward “higher things.”  Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the truth God revealed to me.  So now I’m going to share it with you.  (I’m a giver like that. You’re welcome.)

If we want a joy-filled Christmas, instead of a burden-filled to do list, we will need to prepare our hearts differently.

Preparations for a Joy-Filled Christmas:

Release your expectations.

I’m sure Mary expected things to go a little differently during her last month of pregnancy than they did. I’m thinking she was hoping for some nesting, maybe settling in at home with Jo in their jammies, not necessarily traveling almost 100 miles by donkey mere weeks before baby J was due.  I’m also guessing she was hoping for a nice quiet room with a midwife tending to her birth, not an unequipped husband, a bed of prickly hay and loud animals mimicking her contractions.

Have you ever had unrealistic Christmas expectations and then things haven’t gone as planned? 

We could likely make a list a mile long of unmet expectations surrounding the holidays.  Like the time your kid got sick right before the Christmas play or that trip to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and you had to stay home.  Or when that relative set you off because they didn’t understand how inconvenient their schedule or needs were in light of yours.  Or when the store ran out of the one gift your child so desperately wanted.

But how might our Christmases be different if we didn’t place such HUGE expectations on ourselves, our families, our traditions, our Instagram worthy menus, or our gift selections?

Do you think maybe, just maybe, we’d find more joy in it all? 

I’m guessing Mary didn’t think things turned out so bad in the end.  I mean even if that darn census got in the way, God gave her more abundant blessing in the unexpected places than she could ever imagine!

And he can do the very same for you.

Make Room.

There may not have been a cushy room in the Inn for Mary and Jo at the time of Jesus’ birth, but what the innkeeper did have, he offered.  Even though it was meager, he still made room.  But amidst the endless should-dos, wanna-dos and over-dos that fill our Decembers, it’s no wonder we don’t have much room for anyone or anything else.

And it’s no wonder we often feel burdened and can’t find joy in the season.

What if we paused for a moment today and consciously made room in our schedules, our houses, our budgets, our hearts?

Could we offer a place to stay, a spot at our table, an invitation to the lonely, gifts for those who don’t have any, time to sit and listen, service to others, or even unplanned time in the company of those we love?  If we clear some things from our proverbial plate, if we said no to more—in other words, made room—we could make a place in our lives for the Joy of the Lord to show up this Christmas.

I love the lyrics of Joy to the World, 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart, prepare Him room…

These words serve as a powerful reminder.  When we prepare room, we can not only receive our King, but we can also have Joy in the process.

Question: What’s your secret to a joy-filled Christmas? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sarah Beckman inspires people from the stage and on the page. She is the bestselling author of Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which is filled with practical tools to love people well in the rough patches of life. Sarah speaks to audiences across the country on topics such as loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.

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