Published 11:47 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

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By the time many of you read this, we will be about a week away from Christmas. Oh no, there is still so much to do! We have done quite a bit, but there are still some things that need to get finished up. Somehow it will all get done and we will be ready.

Doug Creamer writes a religion column for the SNAP.

I have been thinking about joy, and considering the many ways that we can experience the joy of the holiday season. For most of us, we get the most joy out of spending some time with one another. As my pastor says, it is important to gather together. Family and friends are so important to share the holiday cheer.

There are many things that can help the holiday spirit to move within us. For many it is the music of the season that stirs us up. Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams are among people’s favorites, but there are so many others, including the “Nutcracker Suite.” Music has a powerful way of touching our soul and thus stirring the spirit of Christmas.

Some people love the decorating that goes with the holiday season. They will spend days building their magnificent light displays outside. Others love decorating the Christmas tree. Others love collecting and displaying nativity scenes. When I was growing up, we put villages and trains under the Christmas tree. Then there are all the knickknacks that we put out all over the house for the holiday season.

For many the holiday spirit is stirred when they watch their favorite Christmas specials like Charlie Brown or the Grinch. Others long to see their favorite Christmas movies, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.” Hallmark has an endless supply of Christmas movies for those who love to watch them.

For my mother and mother-in-law, Christmas is about the food and gathering your family around the table for some holiday treats. My mother used to make hundreds of Christmas cookies. My mother-in-law makes a coconut cake that looks about a foot tall. Both mothers make tons of special food that we enjoy. If our favorites are missing from the table, we wonder what is wrong. There are certain foods we all associate with the holidays, and we just have to have them for it to really be Christmas.

The first people to really experience the overflowing joy of Christmas were the shepherds. They were living a normal day. They had fed and cared for their flocks and were sitting around the fire relaxing. Suddenly, a bright light illuminated the fields and an angel stood in their midst. Naturally, these brave shepherds were terrified at the sight.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” We know what the good news is, the Messiah, Jesus, has come. Why were the shepherds the first to get the news? God chose them because the shepherds would know where all the barns and caves were around Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph were probably not the only ones staying in barns or caves, because Bethlehem was packed with people from all over Israel who also had to register for the taxes.

After the shepherds find Mary and Joseph and they see the baby Jesus, they spread the word to anyone and everyone who would listen. All those people took the renewed hope of the coming Messiah back to their homes and villages. Talk of what the shepherds heard and saw would spread like wildfire. Hope and joy over the arrival of the Prince of Peace could not be contained.

The Bible tells us that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. She knew how this baby was conceived. She knew that she held the son of the living God in her arms. When she kissed the face of Jesus, she kissed the face of God. The joy in her heart exploded and was uncontainable. She knew that God keeps all His promises. She knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God loves all the people of the world.

I want to encourage you to receive the awesome gift of God, His Son Jesus. He is the hope you need to carry on through the storms of life. He is the Peace that goes beyond understanding. He will bring a joy to your heart that overflows to all you meet. His love will heal your broken heart and reestablish your relationship with God. The only question that remains is will you open your heart and receive the greatest gift ever given? I hope you will.

Contact Doug Creamer at PO Box 777, Faith, NC 28041 or