Published December 15, 2009

Shelia Shares....
"Ideas for Christmas Joy"

Last week my "Shelia Shares" talked about people who are facing the Christmas holidays feeling anything but merry. As we walk beside them, there are certain "dos" and "don'ts." We need to be there for them in a sensitive way.

Today I want to give some hints to move yourself out of the doldrums, if that is where you are this year.

1. Focus on others. Often we feel so much better when we take time to do something for someone else. It doesn't have to be something elaborate. Offer a lift to someone who needs it. Smile at the youth packing your groceries. Visit a nursing home and actually talk with the residents.

2. Go Christmas caroling. I remember a couple years ago, when we caroled in our church community, an elderly lady told us this was the first time anyone had ever caroled for her. Walk down the halls of a nursing home or hospital and carol for the residents. Forget to focus on the songs and how perfectly you can sing. Instead be sure to smile at the people there and give a friendly word and listen patiently as they respond. (Of course, get permission from the home or hospital first.)

3. Decorate. Create a setting that will raise your spirits. If the normal decorations are too difficult to observe this year, create new ones. A festive area can bring a smile even through tears.

4. Invite friends to your home to watch a Christmas video or movie. It might be a Gaither Christmas video or one of the wonderful Hallmark channel Christmas movies that you have taped off the TV. Serve popcorn, cider, apples or Christmas cookies. Keep it simple and just enjoy sharing the season.

5. Spend time with family. This year we are celebrating just before Christmas with our family. We are going to see a live performance of the Nutcracker. (By doing a morning matinee, my tickets were $12 each rather than the usual much higher rate.) Then we will have lunch together, before opening presents at our house. After that we will probably play table games, by which time my sons will be searching my freezer and cupboards for more food. Again, it doesn't have to be elaborate. The fun is being together.

6. Fill the season with fun things. This year I have been to many bazaars and craft shows. Seeing the creativity of people and enjoying the joyful atmosphere is healing. You don't have to buy anything – although in our family, Paul does enjoy the baked goods I bring into the house.

And, finally, remember that Jesus' birth was not into a perfect setting. Take time to reflect on a poor, pregnant single girl, who simply made herself available to be used of God. Joseph was a carpenter and knew that by accepting Mary, he would bear some of her shame. Neither totally understood what they were getting into with such unusual circumstances, but they were willing to obey where God put them.

The birth was not in a pristine hospital setting, but in a barn. Instead of the smell of sanitized soap and baby powder, it was that barnyard smell.

Nice receiving blankets were missing. They "made do" with straw and whatever cloths were available. The warmth was the love they felt for each other and this precious baby boy.

The important part is that God was with them. And, you can say the same. God is with you. Whatever your feelings, God is with you. Remember that. Reach out and take His hand. Bask in His love. Rejoice – it might be forced at first – rejoice in the birth of a child that made possible your salvation, here and now and in heaven for eternity.

Merry Christmas to all.

- Shelia

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