by Rhonda Rhea
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
That Christmas feeling. All year long. Because Christmas movies. All. Year. Long.
I have a high threshold for these things. I watch them all. So when Christmas rolls around for real, I get excited. Christmas movies—at Christmas!
I’ve seen enough of them to know that to experience the season well, you have to fill it with the proper Christmas components. Christmas cookie-baking (spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is love), decorating the tree while singing loud carols (possibly falling off a ladder), ice-skating, brushing something off someone’s face, and of course, making snow angels. We don’t always get a good Christmas snow outside of the movies. For the record, dirt angels are not the same. And Christmas laundry could also become a thing.
I had a little trouble last year. Not with the dirt angels, but with the tree-decorating/ loud singing part. A dozen extra packages of tinsel and too many extra-loud choruses of “Joy to the World” and I got the worst sore throat. Pretty sure I had tinselitis.
There’s a different kind of loud message around this time of year though. It’s both loud and subtle—and not funny. It’s a message to fill the season. Fill it with stuff. Fill it with busy and merch and different kinds of hustle and bustle—and the fullest lists. Lists on lists on lists. Fill it with chaos and stress and nary a silent night, much less sleep in heavenly peace.
I’ll tell you exactly what I do not want my season filled with. Regret. That’s what happens when we let our focus drift to the wrong fillings. There’s a beautiful filling that happens, however—as weird as it sounds—in the proper emptiness. An appreciation of Christmas, and life itself, blossoms as we fill life with…sacrifice. Fill it with surrender.
As we surrender to Jesus, life is filled with purpose. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 CSB).
I can fill up with the temporary—money, fame, success, power—whatever this world might offer. Gaining it all. Losing myself. The ultimate regret. But surrendering to the Lord, holding nothing back, opens the door to full life. Joyful. And joy-full.
We were never meant to fill ourselves with joy. We weren’t built to wrangle purpose out of our existence. Trying it leads to joylessness—and regrets on regrets on regrets.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”
Jesus came to bring joy to this world, fully knowing what it would cost Him. What a glorious example of sacrifice. He set aside heaven and His rights as God-King, trading them for suffering—and all for the joy of closeness with us.
We can trust that when He asks us to abandon all and follow Him, He does it with our good in mind. If we let go and grab on to Him, we will always find that His plans for us are bigger and better than anything we could’ve dreamed up. This is a King I can follow without reservation.
That thought fills my heart with singing. Year-round. Though from here on out, I might do the actual singing (with a bit more reservation).
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.
Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!
Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself from regret at Christmas?