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Rediscover Joy in the Hectic Holiday Season— Christmas Encounters of the Close Kind

While madly rushing about attempting to conquer my lengthy Christmas to-do list, All I want for Christmas plays in the background, bringing with it thoughts of the culture’s me mentality.

I like to think myself above cultural influence, making decisions based solely upon my faith-based values, but social psychology strongly confirms otherwise. Constant cultural messaging, societal norms, cognitive biases, and in-group pressures all impact decisions more than I realize. 


Back to the song—I attempted wrestling down this deeply entrenched worldview, but unless I intentionally create some soul-space, the constant cultural bombardment drowns out any whispers of the Divine. 

So how do I reflect upon the holiness of this season amidst all this consumeristic noise? Pondering this question throughout the week, Luke 1 offered some insight.

In a time when women lived on the fringes of all that was considered holy, a teenage girl attended to the whispers of the Divine—a quiet knowing—in the depths of her soul.

Despite multiple unknowns, Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her Savior because she believed:

He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. Luke 1:49

Embracing the holy encounters of a visiting angel and a cousin’s prophetic greeting, Mary chose to praise the God wholooked on the humble estate of His servant,” Luke 1:48a.

Later in the gospel story, another holy encounter took place in the quiet Bethlehem hillside. The heavenly realm suddenly burst open and filled the Judean hills with angelic choruses of good news bringing great joy. (Luke 2:10)

And who did they visit—kings, priests, scholars? Humble shepherds of no reputation. Among the marginalized of society, their life consisted of lonely sheep-tending on the outskirts of communal village life. 

Yet their joy escalated as they raced to the barn where their Savior was born, nestled in a hay-filled manger. 

Holy encounters hearten the soul.

In their excitement, they left joyfully praising God. Even skeptics could not silence them. Despite accusations of daybreak drinking, details of the night’s events were recounted with worship-filled hearts and lips.

A fortified soul will not be silenced.

Chosen like Mary, they participated in the most anticipated event both of heaven and earth.

I may not witness joyous angelic choruses, but I can choose to experience the same joy as the shepherds when I turn my heart towards Bethlehem and our Savior snuggled in a feeding trough. 

Hope is reborn when I imagine the angelic proclamation, meditate on Mary’s Magnificat, or read of a joyous band of sheepherders. 

Proximity to Jesus produces praise-filled wonder and joy.


As we struggle against the pressure to perform and conform—from culture, friends, family or even ourselves—let’s remember, a dozen times a day if necessary:

  • the hope ushered in
  • the peace invading our planet
  • and the joy filling a teenage mother and rag-tag band of giddy shepherds

all because our Savior was born under a star-lit sky. 

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room.

Let every heart prepare Him room…What might you do to prepare Him room? 

May I offer a prayer to make your own as we prepare our hearts to receive the joy of His presence?

Sweet Savior, remind me to marvel at the miraculous this season. Call me to the manger, and compel me to stay awhile, savoring each detail of your extraordinary entrance into humanity. 

Open my eyes to the impossible in the ordinary, and invade my circumstances with Your presence, peace and possibility.

Arrange holy encounters, and prompt me to look for them. 

When I’m distracted with perfecting the season, conforming or performing, call me to the shepherd’s hillside. Break into my busyness (or solitude) with Your boldness as the angels did that glorious night. 

Calm my chaotic pace. Fill my frantic soul. Comfort my aching heart. Reassure my confused mind. 

Put a new song in my heart, a song of praise to You. So many will see and hear and put their trust in You. 

Place me in situations where I can be light—whether at the office, in my kitchen, by a child’s bedside, or in a crowded room. 

Grant me boldness to speak the truth in love. Is there a weary friend, a confused cohort that needs Your lovingkindness or tender mercy? Lead me, fill me, then open my mouth as you did for the wonder-filled shepherds. 

Gentle Shepherd, remind me of your steadfast love and concern over every detail of my life.  

Show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psa. 16:11

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