Formations 12.13.2020: Rejoice!

Isaiah 35:1-2; Philippians 4:4-9

On January 1, the new year seemed fresh and exciting. Maybe the new decade would even become the twenty-first-century version of the Roaring Twenties! We could only hope. But March came, and the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world more quickly than we could grasp. Schools, offices, healthcare providers, self-care providers, restaurants, movie theaters, and community theaters all closed. Even churches closed. It definitely felt like a “wilderness,” a “dry land,” a “desert” (Isa 35:1).

My daughters did their schoolwork online at home. My husband built a desk in our guest room and has worked there ever since. I work from home, so I’m used to a casual, relaxed, self-directed schedule. Needless to say, having everyone home with me added a different dynamic to my workday.

We all felt trapped. Scared. Uncertain. Confused. Lonely. Didn’t you?

And then I saw a post on social media about encouraging our neighbors by taping paper hearts to our windows or doors. Ironically enough, the trend went “viral.” The point, according to the organizer, was to “spread the love, not the germs.” My younger daughter Natalie and I sat at our coffee table with colored paper, scissors, and glue, and we made hearts together and then taped them to our front door. For many long months, those hearts reminded us—and hopefully anyone who saw them—that we’re all in this together.

Now it’s mid-December, and I’ve been enjoying Christmas decorations since before Thanksgiving! Considering the difficult year we’ve all had, the early decorating delighted me instead of annoying me. We need the trees and the lights and even the inflatable Santas and Grinches. Just like we needed the jack-o’-lanterns in October. And the American flags in July. And the paper hearts in March. These seemingly small things have reminded us to rejoice in the midst of struggle, just as the writer of Philippians encourages us to do. It helps to “keep on doing the things that [we] have learned and received and heard and seen” until life returns a more normal place (Phil 4:9).

In difficult times, when it can seem like the world as we know it is ending, we need encouragement, hope, and a sense of fun. I hope your Christmas decorations are bringing you great joy as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. May his presence fill your life with unending hope, no matter what 2021 brings. And hey, keep that Christmas tree up as long as you want to.

Discussion

  • What has 2020 been like for you, your family, and your friends? Where have the “wilderness” and “desert” places been? When have you felt like you were living in a “dry land”?
  • How have you held on to hope during the toughest times?
  • What causes you to rejoice? What helps you remember the reasons for rejoicing when nothing good is happening?
  • How can this Christmas season help restore your hope and peace as you approach a new year?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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