MAKING ROOM FOR JOY AT CHRISTMAS
By Tricia Lott Williford
Christmas can feel complicated. There can be so many emotions, so many expectations, and so
little margin to breathe. For me, Christmas is compounded with sadness, remembering, and
recurring anxiety. In 2007, two days before Christmas, my husband, the father of my two
children, died. I want to embrace the season with joy, but it seems I have to wade through a valley
of remembering before I can delight in the happiness. Joy seems to get smashed into whatever
space is leftover, and sometimes that’s not very much. One day in December, Joy to the World came up on my Christmas playlist loop, and as I listened, I noticed these words anew, perhaps for the first time:
Joy to the world,
the Lord has come.
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
I always thought of this lyric as my reminder to set aside the wrapping paper, shopping lists, and
bows, to slow down long enough to make room in my heart.
But I know so much more now: If I’m not careful and intentional, sadness will take up every inch of
my heart it’s allowed. As I listened this time, it caused me to think differently, to make room in
my sadness for joy; to allow my darkness to be soft enough to be aware of the light; to let
sadness step aside sometimes; to remember—for even a moment—that this season is about so much more. Here are a few ways you can make room for joy this season:
Start a new tradition.
If this is your first Christmas without someone you love, instead of doing what you’ve always done, choose something new and different to enjoy.
I choose my holiday music with great care. Music triggers memories that may take me somewhere I don’t want to go. Fill your heart and your home with the music that lifts your soul.
Start and finish your day with five minutes for yourself. Begin the day with intention, and finish the day with forgiveness. Read a book, write a note, or make a list of things that brought you joy. Give yourself margin to breathe, think, reflect, and remember.
Henri Nouwen said, “May his light shine in our darkness and may I be ready to receive it with joy and thanksgiving.” If you are sad or distracted or busy or frayed this season, may your wounded heart prepare him room.
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