The value of taking joy in the simple things of life
By Pastor David Bowen, Standing Stones Community Church
Growing up on the East Coast, I had always heard about the sights and sounds of Christmas in New York City. For years I had wanted to see and experience that extravaganza and I guess I passed that dream down to my kids, as year after year we watched the lighting of the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, a New York tradition since 1933. They asked me how one gets to go ice skating there. I wasn’t sure, but I promised I would find out. As a pastor, it is hard to get away for family time during the month of December, but last year we took a week and spent an early Christmas in New York City.
We did it all, starting with ice skating at night in Rockefeller Center. With the lights and giant decorations glaring, the Christmas music and ambiance, it was breathtaking. We did all we could do. We saw the Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, and the ending nativity scene was amazing. We walked along Fifth Avenue and oohed and aahed at the giant Christmas window displays. Macy’s had the theme of Charlie Brown and Christmas in their six huge windows. My kids’ favorite part of the trip was ice skating in Wollman Rink in Central Park. My wife enjoyed shopping for unique, handmade gifts at the Union Square Holiday Market. My favorite was sitting in Times Square, relaxing, taking in the sights and drinking hot chocolate.
This past summer, I asked my kids if they would like to go back to New York again this December. Each of them politely said no, that they preferred to stay home and enjoy Christmas at home. I agreed with them; it was fun to experience the sights and scenes, but our curiosity was fulfilled. I thought this is a good lesson. How often do we seek to find joy in the simple things of life? Simplicity can bring a great deal of satisfaction. The holiday season can be so stressful with too many tasks to complete. It is refreshing to say “Let’s stay home and enjoy each other and make things simple.”
I often hear parents say they just want their kids to be happy, which I understand, but what is happiness? Being “happy” seems to change with the newest upgrade or release, whereas joy brings quality to one’s life. Joy wages against the stress of having to have it all. Joy dissolves restlessness and gloom.
As we head into the Christmas season, how much of the activities and expectations will cause annoyance and frustration? By teaching and modeling joy, the stress of having to do it all will dissolve into a more relaxed and enjoyable, simple season. I see far too many people who are driven by task, having to be places and get things done, versus being relational, and focusing on spending time with friends and family. Tasks or relationships? Stress or joy? Simplicity or chaos? What a wonderful gift to give. What a wonderful lesson to pass on to our children. Teach them to be satisfied with what we have and what we can do together.
This year we are going to enjoy a simple, stress-free Christmas season enjoying the blessings we have with the wonderful family and friends who we know will enjoy celebrating a season of joy with us.