Joy to Your World

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My name is Carol, and I’m a Christmas-aholic!

Yes, I am one of those eccentrics who embraces the tradition of singing Christmas carols starting Oct. 1, of giving gifts to every person living on my street and of smiling at strangers in the outrageously long holiday post office lines.

But it was not always this way. Many years of my adult life, I was locked in the cold dark of a depression that shunned celebration and gave little reason for mirth. There was a time when I acutely dreaded turning the calendar page to December and when I realized I could be the present-day embodiment of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge.

Although my husband and I had been given the gift of two precious boys who were quickly growing up, we also sent five consecutive babies to heaven, each of them between 12 and 20 weeks in utero. Our holiday mantle remained void of miniature Christmas stockings, and my arms and my heart went empty year after endless year.

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After sending those five tiny lives back to the arms of the Father, the doctors then told me I would be unable to conceive again. But I believed with my entire being I was made to be the mother of a large family, and I begged God for the gift of another baby ... or two ... or three. During that season, my circumstances continuously assaulted me with disappointment, while the black hole of depression relentlessly called my name.

Eventually, I did bear another child—three more children, in fact. But before I ever felt the flutter of new life or held the miracle of new life in my arms, something changed for me regarding Christmas.

You see, I developed an addiction during the darkest days of my life. My addiction of choice was not an over-the-counter medication or shopping or even chocolate. Mine was an addiction that injected hope into the cold and emptiness of my circumstances.

During my days of paralyzing and debilitating depression, I became addicted to the miraculous cure of the Word of God. Somehow, as I read the Bible, I found the strength to nestle into the truth of Christmas rather than the fantasy of the culture. Celebrating Christmas with faith and joy rather than the fairy tale of seasonal merriment turned me into a believer—and I know it can make you one too.

Carrying Christ The true Christmas story—the one I have chosen to weave into the fabric of my life—is the story of a girl who was ordinary, young and unqualified. God chose to place Himself inside her womb so you and I could one day carry His presence inside our lives as well.

God the Father, the Creator of the universe, the instigator of everything glorious and miraculous, chose you and me as the vehicle through which our generation would receive its greatest gift. It is our miracle that we have been called to demonstrate Jesus to the world in which we live.

But the world will only experience the joy of His birth to the extent we exhibit joy. The world will only taste the peace of His coming to the extent we reveal His peace. The world will only know the hope of Christmas when we respond to pain and disappointment as hopeful believers.

The glory of Christmas is found in the simple yet eternal fact that your depression or disappointment in life does not alienate you from celebrating an event so rich and rare that all of humanity stops to stare in wonder.

Jesus was born for your depression. The skies exploded over Bethlehem to melt away your darkness. The angels sang to heal your weary soul. Joy was eternally announced into your hopeless life.

A Cleaned-Up Life The shepherds were dirty, uneducated men with grime under their fingernails and sludge in their brains. A group of them huddled one night around a fire in the inky black of night. These muddy specimens of humanity were cold and shivering while they tried to stay awake. Their only responsibility in life was to keep track of a herd of dumb sheep who were restless, disobedient and lice-infested.

These men were diseased by the sickening disappointment that nothing about their lives would ever change. Life can become quickly pointless if you are a man with sheep drool on your clothes and sheep dung between your toes.

Perhaps you are in a place where you feel like one of these hopeless, cold shepherds surrounded by darkness and dung. Perhaps you, like me for so many years, dare the holly-jolliness of the season to get close to your muddy, murky existence.

If so, get ready for a God-induced, Christmas-sized, eternity-driven explosion! God loves to invade the world of lonely shepherds and despondent humanity with the combustion that belongs singularly to Christmas.

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