…again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Of course, the main reason Christmas was so special in my house growing up—and remains so to this day—is that despite all the music, decorations, food and events, it was all about one thing: Jesus. Not just a story of a baby born in a stable eons ago, but the real baby who became a man who is God incarnate and who is still alive today. It was a celebration of a person and a relationship that is alive in my life today. I talk to Jesus and He talks to me. I share my life with Him and He leads me through the decisions, celebrations but also the sufferings I encounter.
We didn’t do Santa. We weren’t militant against him or anything. For one thing, who wants to celebrate the starry night when a babe was born in daylight? Everything about Christmas, the lights, the candles, the warm drinks, and the songs about nighttime demand that you do your celebrating at night. But also, we didn’t want to confuse the celebration of a real event with a bunch of fantastic silliness. Much less create elaborate lies and conspiracies to deceive. Christmas is about a real person, even if with a heavily supernatural side.
Study after study has proven the way prayer and even meditation helps us live a more fulfilled life, and therefor is a conduit to joy. However, no placebo—even prayer—measures up to the power that a relationship with a real, loving, powerful God has in a life. We do not pray because it is a therapeutic means to happiness, but because our friendship with God is real joy. At Christmas we celebrate the way that that relationship, and that dialogue, was made possible. And that relationship allows those of us who believe to experience that joy the whole year round.
Even so, with the access we have to our living God and the joy we celebrate this time of year, many believers come across as the biggest curmudgeons. This is silly. Our joy should be contagious and transformative. It is our joy and God’s love that will change the world. Not our anger and our opposition. My parents made Christmas about Jesus, but I don’t recall them being ugly about Santa or phrases like “Happy Holidays.” If we have a real Father who hears us when we pray, why are we so derisive about people focusing on “positive thinking”? The evident power in prayer should be much more convincing to people than our grumblings against their semi-effective efforts.
However, prayer is not Paul’s only advice on joy for the Philippians…