You may not have noticed the tag line at the end of all the Walmart ads this holiday season. They each ended with a play on the word, “joyfully,” and it really resonated with me.
Maybe it is the brand-new, middle school, English teacher coming out in me, or maybe my life-long appreciation for the power of words, or simply God just answering my prayer to be centered on Him all throughout the hectic pace of the season – but Walmart’s encouragement for me to “joy fully” this Christmas has really spoken to my heart.
The over commercialism of Christmas has been written about and preached against for millennium. I am sure some ad exec in some high rise office somewhere was hoping that I would see their ad and know that in order for our Christmas holiday to be full of joy, I would need to spend lots of money in their stores and on their website. While I did purchase a few things from the big box retailer, it was not because of their ad campaign. The constant stream of their commercials on every network, however, did cause me to pause each time and reflect about what they were asking me to do.
“Joyfully” is an adverb. It is a word that describes the action word, or verb, of a sentence. My daughters “joyfully” opened their brightly wrapped gifts. My mom “joyfully” greeted us at her door with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies. The congregation “joyfully” sang Silent Night at the Christmas Eve service. In each sentence, the reader can picture how the action takes place.
But, in the phrase “Joy. Fully,” “joy” becomes the verb, the action word, and “fully” is the adverb, describing how we are to “joy.”
I had never thought of “joy” as a verb before. A noun? Sure, it is a fruit of the Spirit, a state of being that exceeds emotion. It’s not like happiness that is based on what is “happening,” but it is wrapped in hope and peace and love. So, how does one joy and how does one joy fully?
For the unbeliever, maybe to joy would mean to take delight in or to “enjoy.” For me though, this year – with all the uncertain circumstances and challenging changes my family is facing, to joy has meant to rejoice. It has meant to intentionally center my mind and my heart on the source and object of my joy. Not my family, not a holiday celebration, not time off of work and studies, but on the real meaning of the season…
I know that “Jesus is the reason for Christmas” has in many ways become cliche’ but the timing of Christmas with other events in my life right now has not been coincidental. There have been moments I have asked God why this had to happen at Christmas, why my holiday had to be untraditional for my family and why things couldn’t just follow my expectations. Yet even in my questioning, the Lord has shown me grace.
God’s grace has been even more evident because it is Christmastime. He has been Emmanuel, God with us, through each tear cried and every exhausted sigh. He has shown His faithfulness in sending His Son, not as the gift we wanted, but as the One we needed. He is sustaining us, providing for us and guiding us just as He did for Mary and Joseph.
Christmas this year has been full of reminders that God sees us in our desperate estate and that God lovingly intervenes on our behalf, making a way when there is no other way. These reminders have compelled me to worship, to rejoice, to joy throughout the last two weeks, when disappointment, despair and literally death have been at our door.
The bad news is the reality of life in this fallen and broken world. The bad news is that we cannot fix any of it on our own. But that bad news is what makes the good news so very, very good. God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus. This is the good news of great JOY the angels proclaimed and we do too.
In the saltiness of tears and the ambiguity of my limited understanding of what is to come, I am intentionally choosing to joy. To focus my thoughts on the truths of Christmas, not the traditions or the trappings, has been my goal. Strategically selecting carols and music that keep my heart in tune to Christ. Deliberately engaging in a gospel focused devotional time. Willfully stopping my hectic pace to be still and know as I pray for His influence on my attitude and demeanor.
As I am “joying” these days, God has been so good to instill His joy within me. While the holiday has most definitely been difficult and different this year, it has been so, so good too. Joy did not look like delight initially, but as my vision has refocused in how I joy, my smile and contentment have returned.
Walmart’s commercial campaign was designed to command us and compel us to buy a bunch of stuff so we could joy fully or joyfully enjoy Christmas. But for me, it was God’s way of gently commanding and compelling me to joy fully in Him. This is a lesson for me to carry into the new year. It isn’t just a seasonal thing, but something that He is using to lead me into the days He has already written for me in 2022.
So, dear reader, I am chiming in with Walmart, (something I never imagined doing!) and encouraging you to joy fully too.
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