No one’s hangin’ stockin’s up,
No one’s bakin’ pie,
No one’s lookin’ up to see a new star in the sky,
No one’s talkin’ brotherhood,
No one’s givin’ gifts,
And no one loves a Christmas tree
On March the twenty-fifth.
“Merry…” by Shel Silverstein
Ahh, the Christmas Spirit. A bit of magic that seems to dwell in the bosom of all mankind in December, but eludes us the other eleven months of the year. Such noble enterprises as “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men” just don’t sound as attainable once the tree is back in the storage closet and every chocolate in the advent calendar has been eaten, I suppose.
As someone who could easily live in the tropics without complaint, Christmas is a small grace in the middle of my least favorite season: Winter. While I cozy up to my heat source like a skinny lizard basking on a sun-scorched rock, I take cheer in all the little delights of the season. Christmas movies, our Christmas tree, the lights around town, hot cocoa, holiday scents, and the list could go on. Most of all, I love the innocent, almost childlike sense of wonder and joy that I so often see reflected in the faces of others. December is the time of year when people are a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more grateful. I wish I could bottle up that Christmas Spirit and sprinkle it around when the following months become fraught with meanness, inconsideration, and selfishness. We all could use a little more Christmas in our lives.
One classic hymn, Joy to the World, offers succinct advice on how to bottle up the Christmas Spirit: “repeat the sounding joy”. I find this humble phrase to be brilliant in all its practicality and simplicity. This Christmas season, let us focus on each of the three key words from the famous lyric, and reflect on what it means to “repeat the sounding joy” all year long.
First, we will focus in on the word joy. What does joy mean?
Joy is often mistaken to be the same thing as happiness. However, while the two share similarities, they are not one and the same. Joy and happiness do look very much alike, outwardly. A smiling face, a cheerful tone, and positive speech might point to either of these two emotions. What sets joy and happiness apart is their source…one being external, and one being internal.
Happiness relies solely on outside sources…such things as desirable weather, a nice compliment, a full belly, a new outfit, or just waking up in a good mood. Happiness quickly disappears when we become deprived of its source. It is shallow and ever-changing.
Joy relies solely on inside sources…such things as assurance of salvation, contentment, gratitude, faith, hope, and love. Joy can not be stolen from us like happiness can, because joy comes from the inner man of the heart. It is deep and grounded in stability.
Joy allowed Paul and Silas to sing praises in a prison cell. (Acts 16:25) It allowed Leah to find contentment without the love of her husband. (Genesis 29:35) It allowed Jesus to endure a cruel death on the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) And it will allow us to act like it’s December in the middle of March…
But let all those who put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. – Psalm 5:11 (emphasis added)
Secondly, we will focus in on the word sounding. What does sounding mean?
Well, it is defined much like it sounds (no pun intended): to “sound” is to make a noise with the intention of being heard. The specific admonition to “repeat the sounding joy” isn’t simply encouraging us to be joyful, but to go forth and encourage others to do the same. It carries the idea of sharing our joy by means of communication.
Are you “sounding joy” to others in your daily life? This is not a grand feat, but the natural outpouring of a joyful heart. We sound joy when we keep calm during a stressful hour at work. We sound joy when we choose a level tone instead of yelling when our child misbehaves. We sound joy when we point out a blessing in someone’s complaint. We even sound joy by merely wearing a smile when others choose to frown and be miserable.
One great thing about joy is that it is contagious. But in order for someone to “catch” your joy, it has to be noticeable. Don’t be too shy to sound your joy!
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. – Psalm 98:4 (emphasis added)
Lastly, we will focus in on the word repeat. What does repeat mean?
To “repeat” is to do something more than once. Certainly, possessing the joyful Christmas Spirit for one twelfth of the year is not enough practice to qualify as “repeating the sounding joy”. I have often heard it said that it takes 28 days to make a new habit. Is this why the Christmas Spirit doesn’t stick – people only practice it for 24 days?? All joking aside, joy is something one must repeat again and again in order for it to become second nature.
How can you keep joy all through the year? If I may borrow the words of Nike: “just do it”. Every day we must make the conscious choice to repeat the joyful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of yesterday. Just like anything worthwhile, it will take some effort, but the results will be glorious.
Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. – Psalm 35:27 (emphasis added)
It’s easy to look around at the wonders of the Christmas season and be inspired to be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more grateful. But what will your demeanor be on March the twenty-fifth? Or what about the day after Christmas, for that matter? Will you remember this Christ-centered mantra long after the decorations are packed away and everyone else has lost their Christmas Spirit – “repeat the sounding joy”?
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.– Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.