Well we can certainly say that this Christmas will be like no other – COVID, political and social unrest, lack of travel – a litany of fear and sadness. It is no doubt a scary time as families that usually gather settle for FaceTime or phone calls. We hear in the songs on the radio
that this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” For many, that can be such a misnomer, as their lives can contain little that creates wonder. Yet, I think our ability to be joyful lies in the wonder that we can create in the little things we do.
One idea is to come up with your personal joy list – things that capture you with delight in the ordinary: such as the way the sun reflects in the trees or watching your cat play “soccer” with a small ball. Then there is the importance of practicing that every day. Think about it as another way to “come alive” –opening oneself up to the possibilities of where joy might pop up. Making it a choice to look for joy.
Research shows that one method to induce the emotion of joy is to consider how you savor the things you DO like. To savor means “a characteristic taste, flavor, or smell, especially a pleasant one.” Remember the last time you savored a special meal, an exotic drink (The Grinch at McCray's), or even a particular smell. We love those “scentsicles” that capture the amazing scents of Christmas – particularly those pine, balsam firs, the trees of the holiday. I can just see you imagining that smell - hopefully it's not causing any sneezing - only warm fuzzies.
“Repeating and contemplating the word joy can actually create that emotion. Say it over and over, varying the speed, tone, and tempo until you laugh. Notice how your body feels when you say the word. Did your chest expand? Did your face relax? Think about what joy means to you. Be as specific as possible, imagining the feeling of joy, the images it conjures up, perhaps even the people and situations who trigger joy.” https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10143/7-ways-to-create-more-joy-in-your-life.html . More joy will happen when we simply invite it to be a part of our days and part of our lives.
That article above goes on to say that we need to incorporate a “church mentality” about what gives us pleasure. If we’re too “blocked out” or overbooked, we need to schedule some time for it – just like we put Church or other important things on our calendar. What we make time for then can only grow. And on the flip side, we need to dump the things that we think “should” make us happy though they don’t really. For instance, “I should do z, x, y for exercise.” What if walking is too incredibly boring? How about hiking? Then you nature and physical exertion. Setting up that expectation of "should" only creates guilt and failure, not joy.
We come back to this time of year and the reason for the season. When man was far away from God, God was already working on a plan of reconciliation for His creation. The joy we experience when we think of the birth of the Savior is even greater than that we can imagine in our day-to-day lives. Our daily joys light up the One who is the ultimate in Joy – Jesus. He reminds us that even the rocks and stones will cry out in praise (Luke 19:40). So I lift my voice with the angels in celebration of the Joy of the World. May His peace and hope infiltrate your very pores this holiday and beyond.