Christmas is here! Shops are being decorated with Christmas posters and lauded with Christmas goods. In the guise to ‘give, give, give’, the pressure to ‘buy, buy, buy’ is on. Those with little money to spare begin the struggle to stretch their purses.
Big and shiny, the Christmas of today doesn’t even resemble its humble origin. Every woman who’s ever been nine months pregnant understands how gruelling a task it must have been to ride on a donkey. Every person who’s familiar with the sights, the sounds and the smells of a barn, knows the story of a babe born in a manger is much more pleasant in the telling than the reality.
With nowhere to go, and nothing but faith, a man and a woman on the verge of becoming parents spend the night in a stable. Their lodging is lowly, even by the standards of the day. It offers no creature comforts, no luxuries, and no conveniences of any kind. What they do not have is an important part of the story. Today, lack of material possessions, in no way, defines who you are, or determines the purpose of your life.
The old Christmas song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” December is full of long, clamorous days culminating in the wearied singing of “Silent Night.” Christmas Eve will find us lifting up our weary voices to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”
Christmas is for love. It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages. It is for reconciliation and forgiveness.
I would like to offer ten tips on how to find joy during this Christmas and in life:
- Choose to be happy. You can choose to be happy or sad. Two people met with an accident and were severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chose to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and react to what happens to us.
- Look out for miracles. Miracles are all round, if you look out for them. Sometimes the miracles around you are as simple as a bud bursting into bloom or the hatching of birds’ eggs outside your kitchen window. Taking time to see and appreciate the miraculous is guaranteed to bring a smile to your soul and hope to your heart. Isn’t it a miracle to open your eyes in the morning…? To see the golden sun rise and hear the birds sing… Isn’t it a miracle to feel the golden breeze…? And to see the wind dancing in the trees… According to Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Becoming joyful in heart. Laughter is the cheapest, safest, and most reliable medication there is! Laughter promotes good health in body and spirit. It not only brightens your mood, but also eases tension. A good dose of laughter has been shown to improve blood circulation, stimulate digestion, lower blood pressure, and prompt the brain to release pain-reducing endorphins. Be joyful in life, full of laughter and smile…
- Count your blessings. Count your many blessings. Name them one by one! Even when circumstances are grim, you can always find something to be thankful for. As the popular saying reminds us, “I had the blues because I had no shoes, until upon the street I met a man who had not feet.” “Thank God for your pain,” urges Dr. Paul Brand, who has worked most of his life in leper colonies. Lepers lose all sensation, so they have no pain to warn them, Dr. Brand explains. Their fingers may drop off because they have no pain to alert them to infection. “Pain is always telling you something if you are willing to listen.”
- Share your joy. To multiply your own joy, enjoy the happiness of others. Many people find it easier to weep with those who weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice, because jealousy has a way of rearing its ugly head. Allow other people’s delight to become your delight.
- Let go of the Past. Sometimes we hang on to voices or perceived injustices from the past, long after the person or situation is dead and gone. By bringing closure to these events, we are free to move forward. You may not be able to forget what has gone before, but you can stop dwelling on it. According to Charles F. Kettering, “you can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.”
- Find God in everyone. Mother Teresa said it time and again, “See the face of God in everything, in everyone and everywhere.” Everyone is a reflection of God. Sometimes we have to dig a little deep to see it as our perceptions, expectations and fears cloud our vision. But when we can recognize how God is mirrored in each person, our lives are calmer and freer!
- Focus on being. When we are focused on who we are, what kind of person we are, we tend to be on a journey of spiritual evolution, which in itself tends to have less stress. When we are focused on doing or having, we are not focused on our higher selves, but only on certain cravings that we have. Be a being, not a doing!
- Be an original. Each of us is an original. Why be a copy when you are already an original. Since the beginning of time, and until the end of time, there will be only one you. This means that comparing yourself to others makes very little sense. If you want to make a worthwhile comparison, try comparing yourself to yourself.
- Start living. We only get one life to life, so much to give, so much to share, and so much to do. We might wish for more. D.H. Lawrence said, ‘If only one could have two lives. The first in which to make one’s mistakes… and the second in which to profit by them.’ But there are no dress rehearsals for life; we are on stage straightaway. Perform or perish!
May Christmas 2015 bring about good will in each one of us to love, to forgive, to give and to share!