Finding Christmas Joy

From Jim Harnish, retired pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist in Tampa.

The Christmas tree business is booming! It’s evidently one way people are finding joy in this strange, COVID-infected season.  The New York Times reported:

This year, with parties and vacations largely cancelled, one source of holiday cheer remains in tact: Christmas trees. Americans are buying the trees in droves and the farms that produce them are struggling to keep up.

So, what’s your “source of holiday cheer”?

Last Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, is traditionally called Gaudate, Latin for joy.  In the Old Testament reading for the day, Isaiah promises the One who will come:

to comfort all who mourn, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement… …everlasting joy will be theirs… I surely rejoice in the Lord; my heart is joyful because of my God. (Isaiah 61:1-10)

So, here’s the question — and it’s a big one! — where do we find joy when so many of the Christmas practices and traditions in which we’ve found joy in the past have been taken from us?  You can make your own list of the joy-bringers that COVID-19 has stolen from you this season.  With all we’ve lost, where will joy be found?

Here’s my prescription:

  1. Turn off the 24-hour cable news networks for awhile.
  2. Turn on the Christmas carols. (Christmas at Downton Abby is not a bad place to start!)
  3. Celebrate simple things by sharing joyful memories.
  4. Spend time with the Christmas gospels. (Luke 1-2, Matthew 1-2)
  5. Since you aren’t going anywhere anyway, sit down and read a book that is really worth reading.

3 thoughts on “Finding Christmas Joy

  1. I always start the day after Christmas with Handel’s Messiah and getting my favorite Frazier Fir at a local farm. This year none if my children could come si I asked a local God daughter to help me. She was delighted and after she carried it in we sat down to a Chic fila lunch we bought on the way home and then cloved some Christmas oranges. She liked mine that I put Peace on and she took that home. And I kept hers with the cloved star with a heart in the middle. She also helped me set up the creche. Stable and animals on the dining room table. Wise men across the mantle. Shepherds on the old stereo which sits on a bookcase. And Mary, Joseph and the donkey on the piano. I always play Christmas music all during Advent. ( protestant mother/ Catholic father). I face time and zoom to see friends. My advent wreath/calendar prayer tradition has suffered as a solitary event but my daughter’s school ( she is a teacher) is out this week so we will facetime it and alternate with singing our favorite People Look East each night after a short scripture and Prayer. Of course I have my favorite Christmas movies, a glass of Port (5th essence of the Christmas Spirit) and my annual reread of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I am pretty much doing everything I have always done just not getting out to visit. BUT, a record number of cards this year! I slways said that Christmas is a season and enjoy it right up to Epiphany but trying to keep it in my heart during this divisive year has been a challenge, especially since my children all live in different states and have a variety of opinions. I figure my job as the matriarch is to keep the peace and do my best to love as Jesus loves, without condition. That’s my goal, to bring Christ’s peace into all their hearts!

    • I wish you all God’s blessings to you this Advent and Christmas. I loved reading what you wrote about your Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas!

  2. Father George, if anything can be said to be positive about COVID-19 (and I not making light of it and the havoc and loss of life it has caused our world), it has allowed us to slow down some, truly ponder Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s message from God and what Christ’s birth means to each of us. Our salvation!

    I always loved the story of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah — an angel, a messenger from God, touched their lives.

    Thank you for your blog entries . . . a bright light, always!

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