The first book I read by John Piper was called Desiring God. I was amused when I later saw he had written another book called When I Don't Desire God (both of which are excellent reads and highly recommended).
I thought of the title recently as I was reading comments and e-mails from people who weren't ready for the Christmas season.
I can relate entirely to those years when I don't desire Christmas. The season comes upon us whether we are ready or not and... let's face it... there are cultural expectations to be jolly.
This was almost one of those years for me as there have been more-difficult-than-usual health and financial challenges.
I came very close to not decorating at all when I remembered the advice I am always giving others... do the opposite of what the enemy of your soul expects you to do.
It can be as simple as that when one is fighting the temptation to depression or bitterness or feel they are at the end of the proverbial rope. All such emotions are magnified this time of year.
In my case, I had hubby pull out a few Christmas boxes from the shelves in the garage... mostly those which had to do with the tree and ornaments. Even then I found the battle in my mind raging as I put together the inexpensive tree and thought back to the gorgeous artificial tree we had in our former home... the one which was damaged during a move.
I begin to think of our former large house in a nice neighborhood (even though I love this little place at the edge of the woods) and how lovely that tree looked, past Christmas seasons full of joy, the horrible move in which the tree was damaged... losses past. It doesn't take long for a mental rabbit trail to take us down a road which leads only to an unthankful heart.
Once again I did just the opposite of what the flesh wanted... I opened the laptop to this blog and listened to the beautiful Christmas music playing in the background. The tree was assembled and partly decorated before I became tired. The next day I was refreshed physically and mentally, the remaining ornaments were placed and then tweaked... a few other decorations which had been in the boxes were placed around the rooms and on the porch... very simple presentations.
Just enough... it was just enough to bring Christmas beauty to the Season and a smile on our faces as we enter through the front door. We won't miss the contents of the other boxes, although I feel badly for all the remaining snowmen and snowladies who will miss their annual opportunity to escape their plastic prison and show off for a month or so. :)
Did just a few hours of work make a difference? Oh, yes... the circumstances have not changed but my soul finds such joy as I plug in the tree during the dark of early morning, enjoying my first cup of coffee while pondering as the light reflects a sparkle of vintage red bulbs.
I will look over my list from last year which I recently posted, to see what is possible given limitations. I've mentioned so many times that the best gift we can give our children is to manage their expectations so they can enjoy the Season regardless of the number of gifts under the tree or outside activities... to swim against the cultural stream that more is always best... and learn to enjoy the simplicity of less. Some years we have to remind ourselves of this Truth.
Only by learning these lessons can we truly develop the gift of a thankful heart when God provides financially or we awake pain free. When we experience the joy and lightheartedness brought by reading through the Psalms or listening to the music of the Season as the lyrics proclaim the Glory of God... we truly can thank The Giver of All Good Gifts.
This journey we are on as fellow Sojourners of the Gospel is in a world which is still fallen, the tares still grow among the wheat, war is prevalent in the four corners of the planet, greed and power corrupt those at highest levels of government and business which brings grief to families, our bodies weaken with illness or age... it is not Perfection.
All we can return to the Creator at times is our attitude. What will we choose? What small action can we perform today to show the enemy of our souls that he is not going to win. We are not covering our head with a blanket, holding our breath, and waiting for January 1st and the Season to pass.
No... we may not feel full of joy and expectation this year but we will choose to celebrate the birth of Christ whether you... oh, evil one... like it or not. Choosing joy is a form of spiritual warfare on this fallen planet, my friends.
But... there is coming a Time and a Place... where joy will be the very atmosphere we breath. Until that time, let our lives reflect His love and His peace and His glory. :)