JOY to the World & You

Have the beautiful and comfortable traditions of Christmas become commonplace and predictable to Surprisethe point of boredom? Why do the things you love so much not bring the joy experienced in yesteryear? Perhaps you need more surprise in your Christmas.

Lee Ann Renninger writes in “Surprise” how a preteen’s parents hoped to bless their children with a new home. The kids were involved in the dreaming and planning of what the house they would build together should look like. The walls of the house started coming up and the family visited the worksite to inspect the progress nearly everyday. It was so exciting to the preteen—for two weeks. She became bored, incredible bored. Her boredom reached the boiling point when she took a screwdriver in hand and wrote in the insulation of a wall BORING!!! As in: This is boring. Y’all are boring. This house is boring. The next day at school she felt so guilty. Her parents were trying to bless her and her response had been to throw it in their face. She ran to the house after school to somehow erase last night’s vandalism. To her surprise she found her word surrounded with four more made with a sharpie. “Only BORING!!! Kids Get Bored!” “What?! How dare someone say this! This place is boring, not me! Or am I?” With fresh eyes, searching for anything unusual and unexpected in the place she thought she knew better than the alphabet, she began to look for the unexpected and unknown. She learned to surprise herself in scores of little ways that made her trips to the new house an adventure of learning and joy. Her surprise led to gratitude and her gratitude led to more joy and more joy and more.

You can wait for surprise to find you or you can seek to find your own surprise this Christmas. One of the best predictors of life satisfaction is how much gratitude we feel on a regular basis. More gratitude equals more joy.   Are you, like the preteen, looking for the unexpected and unusual in the comfortable traditions ßof the Christmas you love? Surprise yourself!

When we get what we expect (even if it’s wonderful), we feel nothing. No surprise equals no gratitude. Actively practicing gratitude is the only way to flip on the switch voluntarily instead of sitting around and waiting for gratitude-inspiring surprise to happen.

This young girl practiced the same habit as that of the prophet Simeon. The year Jesus was born he went a familiar route including worship in the temple. He entered looking for the unexpected and was not disappointed. The Hebrew people had waited for God to send a deliverer for centuries. They never gave up hope. They kept looking during times of prosperity and nights of despair. Simeon followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He went to the temple and found surprise in the middle of familiar surroundings and common traditions. He responded with gratitude. The gospel writer Luke records his now familiar words. “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Every night before going to bed think about the significance and the relative magnitude of all the wonderful things in your life. Name at least three pleasant surprises you experienced that day.

Amazingly, the more we practice gratitude, the more life surprises us with reasons to be grateful.
There are so many wonderful traditions to enjoy and love at Christmas time. Why wait for surprise to find you. Surprise yourself by looking for the unexpected. When you find it remember to be grateful. It leads to satisfaction and joy; for the world and you.

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