I’m going to be honest with you. There are many things in my life right now that could easily strip me of my Christmas spirit.
My extended family is not gathering for Christmas this year (and has been declining for some time now). My grandfather’s dementia is progressing. This may be the last Christmas our entire extended family is alive, and the fact that over half of them don’t care enough to make time for one day is stupid and frustrating. My dad and several of his coworkers will be losing their jobs in January. These are all things I could choose to dwell on and allow them to steal my joy.
But I won’t.
Christmas is a time for joy and celebration. We each have a choice to make every single day, and the holiday season is no different. We can choose to pout and dwell on our anger. Or we can choose joy.
It’s true that sometimes our feelings and emotions can’t be helped. And that’s okay. If you need to feel anger, or sorrow, or depression, or whatever — feel it. But then move past it. Don’t stay in that place. That place is nasty, unfruitful, and unproductive. Whatever we choose breeds more of the same. If we choose to wallow, the pit just gets bigger and bigger.
I try very hard to look on the bright side of things. No, things don’t always go as planned. People aren’t always the way we want them to be. But there is always — always — something to be thankful for.
I think about the people who will be spending their first Christmas without their spouse, or parent, or sibling, or worst yet, without their child. I think about the people in Gatlinburg, Tennessee who have been stripped of their homes, their pets, their belongings, their loved ones, their places of work — all in a moment, just weeks before Christmas. I think about children who never had a family to celebrate Christmas with, who will never know the joy of waking up on Christmas morning in their own beds and not the beds of an orphanage or foster home. But by the grace of God go I, my friends.
How do I capture the Christmas spirit when things aren’t going the way I’d planned?
I count my blessings.
I look on the bright side.
I remember the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus.
I stay in the moment.
I engage in festivities.
I give gifts.
I make things like crafts, homemade gifts, and festive food.
I use aromatherapy from essential oils.
I wear festive clothes.
I overuse the word festive.
I try to share joy, because a joy shared is a joy doubled.
And I try to play the hand I’m dealt as best I can.
There are things in life we can’t change. We can’t control the feelings or actions of others. We can’t control the decisions that companies make. We can’t magically cure disease. We can’t make it snow in Memphis on Christmas Day. We can’t afford to leave for a week to live in a beach house somewhere sunny and warm for Christmas, either (alas). But we can still choose joy and we can still choose to have a positive attitude and we can still choose to be merry and bright.
Maybe not in every moment, maybe not on every day, but we can do our best.
Be grateful. Be thankful. Be blessed. Merry Christmas.