Last night I started a new series of lessons for our teenagers entitled “Christmas at the Movies.” We are going to talk about “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in the coming weeks, but last night we started with the movie “Elf.” About 90% of the teens in attendance raised their hand affirming they had seen the movie. If you have seen it then you know it is an off beat film with a far-fetched idea of a human boy raised by elves at the north pole until he finds out the truth at age 30. He then sets out on an adventure to find his real father and find his place in this world. It is a theme that resonates with teens and I thought it was a good place to start. Over the past 2 weeks I have watched all or part of the movie 4 times. I took extensive notes and did a Google search for what other people had said about it. I put together a pretty good list of ideas to talk about but landed on the topic of joy.
Joy is that attitude or emotion of great delight caused by something exceptionally good. Buddy the Elf has joy because he is associated with Christmas, the most wonderful day of the year. He loves to spread Christmas cheer during the holiday season. I believe as Christians we have more reason to be joyful than Buddy will ever know. We do not just see this time of year as an opportunity to give and be happy, Christians see this time of year we celebrate the birth of our Savior. The journey of grace in my life started in a manger over 2,000 years ago. God’s exceptionally good work began in a manger, then reached to a cross and finally into my life. The angels told the shepherds that the message of baby Jesus was one of great joy for all the people.
Buddy the Elf has a problem though. He, like many of us, has a number of kill joys in his life. We are surrounded by events and people who are constantly tearing away at the joy we have in Jesus. I especially think this is true at Christmas. It is easy to get on this roller coaster of emotions with every passing event of the holiday season. I didn’t share this info last night with the teens but it has been on my mind so I want to offer a couple quick thoughts to help this be the most joyous holiday ever.
1. Lower Your Expectations. You do not have to be Martha Stewart in your decorating and Rachel Ray in the kitchen. You do not have to have a Clark Grisswold light display that outdoes everyone in Whoville. Food will not always turn out. People will give lousy gifts. Your decorations will not be the best. That’s okay. The more we lower our expectations the more we can be surprised when things do turn out well.
2. Enjoy. Step back and enjoy each moment. You do not have to take pictures or videos of everything. Just sit and watch. You can even wait to open your gifts while watching other people open theirs first. Take time to live in the moment.
3. Rest. You do not have to do everything this holiday season. In fact, let me teach you a powerful word: “No.” You do not have to volunteer to do everything and be everywhere. You do not have to shop till you drop. You can tell people no and enjoy a quiet evening with your family drinking hot chocolate and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
4. Plan. I believe that most people are on overload at Christmas because they fail to have a plan. Do you have a day set aside to rest? Do you have any plans for a date night with your spouse? Do you have plans for worship? Set down and look at your calendar and make some plans to do things that will grow your joy.
5. Pray. Everyday ask God to be with you this holiday season. Trust that He will take care of everything. Rest in the hands of His powerful plan. Ask God to make each day a blessing for His kingdom and for your life.
These are some simple tips I have used in my life. I know it is not an exhaustive list so maybe you have something to add. I do know that God wants us to be filled with joy as His followers. For most of us, we need to think through how that can happen in our lives, especially during the holidays. May God bless you and I hope this is a day you enjoy.