This year, I have been so excited about putting together a whimsical little table celebrating the JOY of Christmas.  A Christmas table that is perfect for that get-together with friends, your cookie exchange, even a Yuletide brunch.  Something bright.  Something colorful.  Something fun. 

Because JOY is important.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that Christmas is my favorite!  Well, other than summer.  But that’s really beside the point.  Christmas happens to be one of my absolute most favorite times of the year.  The food, the family, the festivities.  It was all so special growing up, and I try to keep those traditions alive.  

But Christmas can also make me a little bit crazy.  Because Christmas just doesn’t happen on its own.  Somebody has to do ALL the things.  It is an organizational, decorational, culinary feat fit for the talents of only the best event planners.  And we moms do it every year.  Like bosses.

But it’s often in the midst of this awesome boss-ness, that I tend to lose sight of JOY.  I enter the season full of gusto and end with a satisfied content… but somewhere in the middle… JOY can start to lag.

Isn’t it funny how the middle is often like that?

The middle is always the hardest part.

So let me share a little something about JOY and middles I learned some time ago–>  None of it depends on me.

Isn’t that great?  That means that none of it depends on you either!  Here’s what I mean: 

As an adult, I have struggled with joy.  There have been times when I have even struggled with long bouts of being depressed.  During those times, I would pray “joy scriptures”- “the JOY of the Lord is my strength”; “I will rejoice in the Lord”; “Rejoice in the Lord always…” as I literally dragged myself through my day.

To be honest, it didn’t help at all.  Not one bit.  But it didn’t matter.  I gritted my teeth and soldiered on.  Zero strength.  Zero energy.  But I was going to force myself to be joyful if it was the very last thing I did.

Then one day, the Lord very gently nudged my heart, “You’re doing it wrong.” 

What?  But this was all I knew to do.  Where was I missing it?  So I sat there (a little stunned) with His prompting in my heart and turned the verse “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” over in my mind. 

And as any good English teacher would be wont to do, I started to break down the word order to put it all in simpler terms.

What I discovered was that “the joy of the Lord” isn’t some fancy religious phrase.  “The joy of the Lord” in Nehemiah 8:10  actually means the Lord’s joy.  It doesn’t mean “joy like the Lord’s.”  It means the joy belonging to the Lord.  HIS JOY.

This may not be news to you, but it was news to me!  Good news!

It was a simple revelation, but it was revolutionary!  It’s the Lord’s  joy that is my strength, not my own.  Of course, I was doing it all wrong!  I was relying on ME having joy when I only needed to rely on the Lord having joy.

Here’s why that’s so life changing:

 God Never Changes

The Bible clearly states in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Malachi 3:6 declares, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”  He never changes and His Word never changes.  If the Lord has joy one day, He will have joy the next.  He is not like a shifting shadow; He does not change his mind (James 1:17, Numbers 23:19).  He doesn’t have up and downs like I do.

JOY is a Part of God’s Nature

Galatians 5:22-23 list the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  These are often taught as the characteristics a Christian should have if they are living according to the Word, in accordance with the Holy Spirit, i.e., if they are doing all the right things like they’re supposed to be, then these fruits will show up in their lives.  Yes and no.

The more I strove to have joy, the more I failed and felt bad about it.  Why wasn’t joy showing up in my life?  I must be doing something wrong.  I couldn’t just grit my teeth and conjure up some joy.  I couldn’t just tick some to-do’s off a list, and joy show up.  It didn’t work.

But a closer look at Galatians 5:22-23 reveals the same principle that pondering Nehemiah 8:10 did.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s fruit, not mine.  The good news is that if the Holy Spirit lives inside of me, then His characteristics/His personality traits/His fruits are inside of me too.  Unchanging.  Every single day.

I needed to quit trying to drum up some joy in my emotions and step back and let the JOY that was already there shine through.

I Can Bless The Lord

Countless times in Psalms, David gives himself little pep talks.  He encourages himself to “bless the Lord.”  According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a blessing is “the act or words of one that blesses someone else,” or “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.”  This is consistent with both the Greek and Hebrew words for blessing.

Think about how it makes you feel when someone blesses you.  It makes you feel wonderful!  The truth is you have the ability to make the Lord feel that same way by blessing Him.  David did it!

The Hebrew word most often translated “bless” is barak, which can mean to praise or congratulate.  When we praise the Lord, it blesses Him, makes Him feel wonderful!  It makes His day!  And it’s the Lord’s joy that is our strength!  Have you ever thought that you could add to the Lord’s joy?

Do you see where I’m going with this?  When the Lord was telling me that I was going all about joy the wrong way, He wasn’t kidding.  JOY, real joy, is part of the package when we become a child of the King.  It’s HIS JOY that is the fruit of the spirit.  And HIS JOY is unfailing, unchanging, and every present. 

I needed to stop trying to get joy from my feelings and start knowing that I already had something that was so much better.

Now, when I feel like joy is lagging (oh, and it does), I take some time to step back from life and let HIM step up.  I take some time to bless the Lord and recharge with HIS strength, and let HIS JOY carry me through… whether it’s through the heavy lifting of the Christmas season or through the lengthy middle of something else, the JOY of the Lord is always my strength.  And yours too.

Pin this Christmas tablescape so that you too can create a Christmas table to share with family and friends and celebrate the real JOY of this Christmas season.

A whimsical Christmas table to celebrate the JOY of the season with 3 Biblical insights into the real nature of joy.

    Need more Christmas inspiration or recipes?  Check out these ASD favorites!

Mary, Did You Know?

Those Infamous Neiman Marcus Cookies

Mini Natchitoches Meatpies

Overnight Baked Gingerbread Oatmeal

Visit Full Plate Thursday to see this and other great Christmas ideas!

Need more Christian holiday encouragement?  This post is on Salt & Light Link up this week along with other uplifting posts from Christian authors!