On Christmas mornings past, my routine included, but was not limited to, roasting a turkey for Christmas dinner, tidying up after presents were unwrapped, and adding additional places around the dining room table. However, Christmas Day 2020 was anything but customary. It would become transformative.
The radio played Christmas music. The wide array of both sacred and secular styles, arrangements, and variety of traditional and contemporary songs was refreshing. That shift from the hurried preparations of Christmases past to the calming and angelic voices of Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Karen Carpenter directed my focus to the reason for the season as described in God’s Word. Little Bethlehem’s eternal notoriety, Mary’s thoughts as she gazed upon the face of God Incarnate, and God calling the lowliest of shepherds and the highest of the Magi’s splendor to visit the Promise overshadowed “the prettiest sight you see is the holly that will be on your own front door.”
COVID-19 is directly responsible for eliminating the flurry of activity needed to prepare for a larger crowd of lunch visitors common on previous Christmases. COVID-19 reinvigorated my priorities of faith, family, and friends. On Christmas Eve, my family experienced an unforgettable memory. Joyful laughter accompanied the stories as my two brothers and I relived and embellished exploits while detailing the irresponsible decisions of boys growing up in the 1960s. My 88-year-old mom, in attendance that Christmas Eve, was unaware or had simply chosen not to remember those tales. Regardless, we were incredibly thankful to God for answering her and my dad’s prayers for protection.
The morning after, in the quietness of Christmas morning 2020, I was successful at restricting any frivolous song from regularly playing over and over in my mind for the next few days. Instead, a Christmas hymn gained prominent replay. Specific words of the familiar melody, “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” unnoticed in the hundreds of times heard or sung during the Advent season, exploded in the stillness of my own reflections on Christmas morning. Like a scripture verse, overlooked in earlier readings, the lyrics took on special meaning at my particular moment of need and reminder.
As a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, the “joyful and triumphant” phrase demanded a serious and necessary personal self-examination. Would that reflection culminate in any meaningful and noticeable self-correction? Am I joyful? If so, how am I expressing that exuberance with my family, my neighbors, my church, my co-workers? Is joy based on the transformative truth of the Gospel or the comfort of my circumstances?
Does “triumphant” accurately describe my attitude toward life? While I know that a future victory is forthcoming, what about my determination to walk day in and day out with confident courage? Am I more concerned about being belittled and labelled for speaking truth, or will I compromise and offend a holy God? Do I boldly express without apology the inerrancy of God’s Word?”
For me, COVID-19 has a silver lining — a renewed focus on faith, family, and friends. I intend to live life with joy and triumph just as the song declares that faithful people should do. A joyful and triumphant Christian is a peculiar sight in a world of uncertainty. As Christians, we should be like thermostats. Controlling the temperature is better than measuring it.
A joyous and triumphant attitude in 2021 pleases God, encourages the brethren, and as Jesus expects of us according to Matthew 5:16, lets my light so shine that men will see my good works and glorify my Father who is in heaven. If you are one of the faithful ones, make a conscious and purposeful decision to be joyful and triumphant in 2021.