Growing in Grace

Repeat the Sounding Joy

People hold strong opinions as to when it’s acceptable to start listening to Christmas music. For me (while I briefly turn on Bing Crosby’s Christmas album in July), I usually begin listening to my Christmas playlists towards the beginning of November—right around the time daylight savings ends. While the days grow shorter, darker, and colder, Christmas music brings light and warmth into my home during the season’s seemingly unending darkness and chill.

If I’m honest, the past several Christmases have been hard. The year my anxiety reared its ugly head after my mom’s cancer diagnosis, the birth of our first child, and a big move—I wept while singing, “A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

The year we suffered a miscarriage and a delayed adoption process, I longed for another child and sang, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”

The year we spent many months alone in our house, when nothing I planned or expected came to fruition, I sang, “O come, all you unfaithful. Come, weak and unstable. Come, know you are not alone.”

The year we received email after email saying we weren’t chosen to adopt a child, I anxiously waited for the final piece of our family and sang, “Noel, Noel, come and see what God has done! Noel, Noel, the story of amazing love!”

While I sang of God’s peace and love, joy and hope, the past few years, it was often a plea rather than a praise. I sang with a heart crying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). I knew God was with me, yet I didn’t always feel his presence in the season we were meant to celebrate Immanuel, God with us. Yet every November, I still clicked on the same Spotify playlist—reminding myself of what I knew to be true of this season and of every season.

This year, though, this year is different. While this year had its difficult moments with surprising transitions, overall, it’s been a good year. A great year even. A year with more answers than questions. A year when we’ve heard “yes” more than “wait” or “no.” A year where praising God’s miraculous provision rings truer than in previous years.

This Christmas seems brighter than those in the past. We have much to celebrate and little to mourn. Yet I know that, this side of heaven, darkness will return. Next year (or maybe the one after that), we will again grieve a loss, lament unmet expectations, or grow weary with the waiting. I’ve heard Jen Wilkin say, “What we repeat in times of ease, we will recall in times of hardship.”

This year—in a year where the praise flows more freely from our lips—we rehearse the goodness of God. We sing loudly with our arms lifted high, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” We plant those truths deep into our hearts and save them for the dark days when we’re only able to whisper the words through tears.

To all those who feel weary this holiday season, I understand and weep with you. Cling to the truth that you are held by a gentle and lowly Savior. He brings light and life into your darkness, for “even the darkness is not dark to [him]; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with [him]” (Psalm 139:12).

To those who have much to celebrate this season—everything truly feels merry and bright—I rejoice with you! Let your spirit rejoice in God your Savior, as did Mary, singing, “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49). Then look to those around you whose burdens you can help carry this season. Repeat God’s faithfulness—both to them and to yourselves.

We started playing Christmas music early this year, right after I tossed our Halloween pumpkins into the trash. This year, my children’s favorite Christmas song is sung by Ellie Holcomb to accompany her new children’s book, Sounding Joy. They belt out the lyrics at the kitchen table, in the car, even in the middle of the store—

Glad tidings! Great Joy!

We are never alone

God sent His Son to make heaven our home

So every Christmas, each girl, and each boy

Could lift up their voice and repeat sounding joy!

I never tire of hearing my children loudly repeat these trustworthy promises of God. And I pray that we all would repeat the joy of Christ to ourselves and to those around us, even when it might not feel as true.

Whether your Christmas rejoicing this year is weary or merry, remember that God is with you. God is here. God is faithful. Then and now and forevermore.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Then and Now”.

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