12 Ways to Have a Joyful Christmas (and Life)
It's gonna mean laying down your life for your friends (and enemies)
“I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” - Jesus of Nazareth (John 15:11–13)
Jesus links joy (complete joy at that) to love.
He then links love (the greatest love at that) to laying down your life for others.
Here are twelve practical (and biblical) ways to lay down your life this Christmas season and for the rest of your life if you want a little bit more joy in other seasons.
1. Go out of your way to meet a tangible need
The early church’s knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone in need was to provide for that need. They opened their homes, wallets, and calendars for the sake of others. It cost them, surely, but that’s the point.
(see Proverbs 22:9; Acts 2:45; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Hebrews 13:16)
2. Believe the best
The Bible declares, “love believes all things.” That means giving people the benefit of the doubt. We have a tendency to assume the worst possible motives for other people’s actions and the best possible motives for our own. If you always assume the worst possible motive in others, it betrays that you don’t feel fully loved and forgiven by Jesus.
(see 1 Corinthians 13:7)
3. Don’t gossip
The Bible lists the sin of gossip alongside light stuff like, you know, murder. Because that’s what it is. It’s character assassination.
When we reveal information about people to other people who have no business knowing it, we usually do it to make ourselves look great and to make them look bad.
(see Proverbs 11:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20, James 4:11)
4. Show up and shut up
When a friend is in need, show up. Just be there. Drop what you are doing, what you want to be doing, and be there. And usually talk less.
(see Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2)
5. Sacrifice your preferences
Do a little gut check. When you get to church and the worship band hits the stage, do you rejoice or grumble, depending on who is on the team? When a guest pastor (or one you don’t like) hits the stage, are you excited to lean in and listen or ready to check out?
Sacrifice your preferences. Every band you hate leads worship in a way that moves and touches someone else's soul. Each pastor has a preaching style that connects with certain groups of people. Decide before you walk out the door of your apartment that you are going to lean in and worship regardless of who is leading that day.
(see Matthew 20:27–28; Romans 14:13; Galatians 5:13)
6. Talk about Jesus
The thought of talking about Jesus with our friends and family is often so terrifying because of how uncomfortable it will make us feel. But, regardless of whether or not they are a follower of Jesus, they need to hear the good news! We all do. So take the risk, lean into the discomfort, and talk about Jesus.
(see Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:9-10)
7. Decide other people’s quirks are endearing
This is one of my favorite marriage tips, but it works with all sorts of people. That thing that you find annoying in someone? Decide it’s cute. It’s funny. It’s endearing. Convince yourself it doesn’t bother you. Let it go with a smile.
(see Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 12:16; John 13:35)
8. Gently restore and reprove
This week, a friend of mine called me and gently shared how the church, and by extension me, hurt her. That was an act of love. It would have been so much easier for her not to deal with it, but she took the risk.
(see Proverbs 19:25; Galatians 6:1)
9. Forgive the small stuff and the big stuff
When we forgive, we give up the right to get even; we unchain ourselves from the other person’s sin. And we have been forgiven so much by Jesus, and he not only gave up the right to get even, he took the punishment on himself.
(see Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 6:37; Colossians 3:12–13)
10. Be so generous you feel the pinch
There is a difference between being a tipper and being a generous person. A tipper treats generosity as a way to get rid of extra changes with little rounding up. We drop a dollar in the bell ringer’s basket or a fiver in the offering plate. But sacrificial generosity has an impact on your budget; there will be things you cannot do in life (that you want to) because of your giving. And I’m not just talking about the church; this is a lifestyle thing.
(see Psalms 112:5; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 1 John 3:17)
11. Serve wherever the need is (not just where you want to serve)
In the same way generosity impacts our budget, service impacts our calendar. Jesus Himself said he came “not to be served, but to serve and lay down His life as a ransom for many.” We serve because He served, and in the words of Lydia Klaus, “a true act of goodwill always sparks another.”
Although Jesus is the only one who acts with true goodwill, those who follow Him become more and more conformed to His image.
(see Matthew 20:28; Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:4; Galatians 5:13; Hebrews 6:10)
12. Relentlessly encourage
Let’s catch people not doing things wrong but doing things right. Instead of gossiping, let’s brag about how great people are doing to their faces and behind their backs. Let’s not just encourage lightly; let’s do it relentlessly.
(see 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25)
Let’s be honest, this stuff isn’t easy, but I guarantee you one thing: when you make the stuff on this list your lifestyle, it will bring you joy.
And that joy will be contagious because there is a connection between love and joy.
This post is adapted from a message entitled Pathway to Joy, originally given at Riverview Church.