We are going to have most of our children home for Christmas this year, and are hoping, as so many other Christian parents around the world do, to make our holidays center on Christ rather than on commercialism.
Actually, we have been worrying about this conflict for a long time — so much so that, years ago, we tried to write a book that focused on one aspect of Jesus and his teachings and character for each week of the year. By focusing on a new facet of the Lord each Sunday in church, we reasoned we could progressively draw our family closer to him throughout the year.
At Christmastime each year, we remind ourselves again of this priority and re-commit ourselves to make the season, as well as the year ahead, more oriented to knowing and following the Savior and trying to emulate his example.
These weekly concentrations or contemplations can be found at www.valuesparenting.com, and we wanted to share one of them in today’s column as a harbinger to what we hope will be a Christ-centered Christmas season.
Week 6: Happiness
Storm Jameson, the poet-philosopher, wrote perceptively of happiness:
“It is an illusion to think that more comfort brings more happiness. True happiness comes of the capacity to think freely, to feel deeply, to enjoy simple, to risk life, to be needed.”
Think for a moment, in this framework, of Jesus Christ:
• Whose thought still frees men’s minds.
• Who felt (in both directions) more deeply than any other ever has.
• Who relished and loved all that was simple and pure.
• Who actually gave his life.
• Who is needed by every member of the human race.
Joy, in the gospel sense, is more than happiness or pleasure, but it is certainly inclusive of both. The Gospels present a Savior who responded to people, who appreciated men’s good humor, who found simple pleasure in everyday life. The scriptures do not tell us of the expression on his face or describe the tone in his voice, but when we consider Christ’s supreme inner peace we begin to imagine the happy characteristics he must have exemplified.
The Lord’s life often seems to suggest a beautiful and light touch — a good-humored approach to being — like a fresh breeze on the sparkling surface of a deep and mighty sea. Do we detect any humor as such? Certainly, there would not be humor in the sarcastic, cynical sense — and never out of derision, where one man’s laughter is another man’s misfortune or ridicule — but perhaps humor in the lighter, truer sense: the sense of seeing life’s little ironies, of appreciating amusing things and of smiling at surprises.
The sparkle of the Savior’s outlook comes through in his dramatized object lessons: a mote in one man’s eye, a beam in that of his critic (Matthew 7:3); a man who was forgiven a huge debt but who would not himself forgive a small one (Matthew 18:23-25). His understanding of human nature shows as he tells of the man in bed late at night who is too sleepy to answer his neighbor’s knock (Luke 11:5-8), or of one blind man leading another into the ditch (Luke 6:39).
Much of Jesus’ life was sociable and people-oriented. To him it was appropriate and natural to be at a wedding (John 2:1-10); dining out by invitation (Luke 7:36); or simply relaxing in the house of friends (John 12:1). And how right it is that life’s perfect example should exemplify joy — and should take joy in the very things he had created in order that man “might have joy.”
The Lord taught that the sacrifices required by the gospel are a joy to make, likening them in parables to the man who in his joy sold all that he had to buy a precious pearl (Matthew 13:45-46). All of the rewards the Lord promised those who followed his gospel were related to this principle. He promised:
• Happiness (John 13:17)
• Joy (John 16:22; Luke 24:52)
• Peace (John 16:33)
• More abundant life (John 10:10)
• Freedom (John 8:31-32)
The Savior followed his gospel as perfectly as he taught it — and thus each of these rewards was his to receive as well as to give.
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.valuesparenting.com.