The Spirit of Holy Joy
By Darla Weaver
Excerpt adapted from Gathering of Sisters by Darla Weaver.
©2018 Herald Press, used with permission.
In one way or another, most of the month is geared toward Christmas. Christmas cards and letters, Christmas cookies and treats of all shapes and sizes and colors, Christmas carol singings and programs at school.
Somehow it’s fitting to wrap up the old year with the spirit of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and to take the memory of that happy occasion over two thousand years ago along into the new year. Not the commercialization of holidays minus Christ, perhaps, but a joyous acknowledgment of the baby who was born once so that we could be born again into his kingdom.
For the birth of the baby who was King is only the beginning. The manger is the prelude to the cross, just as Bethlehem always leads to Golgotha on Good Friday. For the divine baby of the virgin birth, who slept in the feed trough of an ox or donkey, Christmas was—and still is for us—only the beginning. The manger is the prelude to the cross, just as the cross is the way into the heavenly kingdom that stands forever. And that’s Christmas to me—the hidden manger in the lonely Bethlehem hills, the torturous cross as punishment for the Man who had never sinned, and the glorious resurrection morning when all those who live for and die with Christ will see his forever kingdom. Which is why he was born in the first place, and why he said to us, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
The line of Christmas cards on the wall behind the table in the kitchen lengthened weekly. It was directly behind the bench where the children sat to eat dinner, and so it was that Corey, Wesley, Makayla, and Janessa finished the last bites on their plates while seated backward. They were examining the pictures on each card and talking to each other.
“Christmas is Jesus’ birthday,” remarked Wesley to Corey as they studied a manger scene.
Corey nodded seriously. “Yes, it is.”
“Christmas is when Jesus was born,” Makayla agreed. “But then he grew up and died.”
“It was the bad men that killed him,” Wesley said. “They put him on a cross.”
“And he died,” Janessa said sadly.
“But he didn’t stay died,” Makayla reminded her, sounding awed. “He’s alive again.”
Wesley nodded with five-year-old wisdom. “And that’s really true.”
“It’s as true as true,” Makayla said, still looking awed.
Christmas is a season of celebration and happiness and time spent with family. Perhaps we celebrate the day in a more low-key fashion than many people, but we celebrate it in our own way, and with joy remember the baby from Bethlehem, who came to die so we could live.
He came with the first Christmas gift of his own for all people everywhere who surrender to the message he brought from God, his Father. His gift came to us when he died so that we could be born again as new people with new hearts, Christ-centered. The way each of us lives shows whether we’ve rejected or accepted his Christmas gift.
And that’s the spirit of holy joy to take along into the new year. When the last package is opened, the last cookie and candy consumed, the last wrapping paper discarded, Christmas really has only just begun.
Darla Weaver is a homemaker, gardener, writer and Old Order Mennonite living in the hills of southern Ohio. She is the author of Water My Soul, Many Lighted Windows and Gathering of Sisters. Weaver has written for Family Life, Ladies Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.
Once a week Darla Weaver hitches up her spirited mare, bundles her children into the buggy, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother. In Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family (Herald Press), Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women’s gatherings that keep them connected. On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting. No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other, even when raising an occasional loving but knowing eyebrow at each other.