I recently read Elizabeth Trotter’s post on A Life Overseas called When Singing Joy to the World Feels Too Hard.
And every word was one I could have written.
I just didn’t have the words.
I had the feeling.
The feeling of lost joy. Of knowing that joy is there, happening all around me, even including me at some moments, but still sensing that the joy of Christmas was somehow illusive and impossible to grasp.
Joy, having filled many Christmases past, seems stuck in other years and in other places.
The joy of cookies baking and carols playing and snow falling doesn’t seem realistic here.
I have filled the hours with Christmas shopping, present wrapping, Christmas music streaming through my laptop. Setting up Christmas crafts for the girls… new ornaments for our new tree in our new country. Creating an Advent chain with verses of our coming Savior. Snowflakes hanging in my kitchen doorway… anything to try and make the season bright.
Trying to grab that joy… realizing that joy is different this year.
Joy. Sensing it is here… but not.
There is a feeling of overwhelming sadness.
And finally being able to put into words what that sadness means.
The answer is in the Christmas songs I choose… Elizabeth said it perfectly in her post, “…these songs aren’t making me sad; they’re speaking my sadness.”
Sadness that we are still going somewhere to tell it on a mountain… that we are still singing glory to God in the Highest to a world that has never heard. And the songs speak that to me…
I feel the desolate lostness around me. Nearly every single person I meet here has no idea what Christmas is, why it is celebrated and who they should be celebrating. They do not know. Now one has ever told them. They do not believe it is Jesus’ birthday and they do not understand the power of His birth. They do not recognize that Jesus came to save THEM. to love THEM. to bring THEM new life.
The call to prayer rings out and I turn up the minor, soulful caroling sound on my laptop praying that the truth will spread forth.
I feel sadness and wonder if it is at all like the sadness Mary and Joseph would have felt that long ago night.
On the night that a King was born, only a stable and a few shepherds were there to welcome him. How sad and lonely that would have been for Mary and Joseph. After all they’d been through… no one was there to celebrate with them.
For the rest of Bethlehem, the night went on as usual and no one knew that the greatest event in history just took place in their home town.
How sad that must have been… such a holy event with nothing to mark it but the braying of donkeys and the baaing of sheep. A few shepherds stopping by and running out to share the news. Yet, the hundreds of thousands of people around them didn’t even know anything out of the ordinary had taken place that night. And may not have even cared.
And that sadness, that loneliness, the hurt that Mary and Joseph could have felt… I feel it here.
Because it feels very much the same.
In our new country, only a few know the meaning of Christmas. Only a few celebrate His birth. The majority STILL does not know that something miraculous has taken place.
So, I wait for Christmas joy. A strong joy. A greater joy. The joy of ALL the world knowing the story of Christmas.
As Elizabeth said, “Much like my liturgical friends suppress their alleluias during Lent, I’m suppressing my joy this Advent… I’m waiting for the wonders of His love and the absolute reign of His truth and grace.”
Because joy doesn’t really come from the “feeling” of Christmas. Nor does it come from family and friends. It doesn’t come from presents wrapped under the tree or beautiful Christmas crafts. It doesn’t come from happy carols or sad carols. Or a new candle or a roaring fire in the fireplace.
Joy to the world came as a baby. And hundreds of thousands still do not know the news of His birth.
So, I wait for joy.
I’m experiencing some kind of paradox… a life FULL of joy! While realizing that true joy will come. True joy will come with the completion of the Great Commission. With the ready Bride of Christ. With the declaration that peace is on Earth.
Waiting for joy because it is worth working for and waiting for.
Till the whole world knows.
Till the whole world hears.
What a joy that day will be, when together, the nations rise and sing “Joy to the World, the Lord HAS COME!”
Joy will abound and the feeling of Christmas will be for all.
So I’m making space right now for sadness, for minor keys and for delayed joy.
Staying focused on the task, grounded in the word and armored for battle. Ready for the day that Joy comes and the whole world knows He is here.
“We can make space at the table for sadness this Christmas. We can settle our souls on the minor keys. We can open our hearts to the Promise and wait for the complete reign of our Savior. We can employ a song not of total sadness, but of delayed joy. And right next to the seat of grief and lament in our hearts, we can prepare Him room.” – Elizabeth Trotter