Enjoying Joy

Enjoying Joy

There’s a Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.” Cecily Strong plays the role of the girl who’s characteristically drunk and ditzy, with know-it-all opinions in a pseudo-activist kind of way. She’s looking for a fight. The “straight man” is played by Seth Meyers.

“So are you excited about the holidays?” He asks.

“Excited? I’m repulsed! All this ‘mercialism around Christmas is an outrage! It’s a trajesty! It’s like, what are we even doing?” She scoffs.

“You really seem like you’re in the Christmas spirit,” he teases.

“You mean the Christ-mas spirit? Oh right, you don’t care about Jesus because you worship Hallmark.”

“Oh boy!” He looks away.

Then she asks him what he wants for Christmas…

joy disturbed“I don’t wanna tell you,” he says.

“Would you just relax? I’m just asking you what you want for Christmas.”

“Okay, well, I was hoping to get the new iPad.”

She responds with staged timing. “I asked for an end to genocide.”

“Oh, c’mon.” He rolls his eyes.

She slams him further. “Okay, so maybe the next time you’re on your new iPad…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” He feels it coming.

“…Look up ‘How to be a decent human being!’”


And so it goes. Though she doesn’t really portray a Christian, her antagonistic nature is something I’ve seen in Internet exchanges and Facebook arguments by all kinds of people, including believers. She baits him to set up her own self-righteousness.

joy escapesAs I watched the skit, I felt a twinge in my chest. I stopped to reflect. The girl’s comments reminded me of a time where I resisted celebrating Christmas. Many in the world or even in my small town were hurting, in need, grieving, or depressed. Eat, drink, and be merry? I felt embarrassed when there were too many gifts under the tree.

What does it mean when you can’t be joyful because somewhere, someone is suffering? It’s the same kind of gripping thing that says you can’t rest until all the work is done. Why does that mindset dictate?

I asked the Lord for discernment. The word SEVERITY came to mind. It means the condition of being severe.


  1. Something bad or undesirable, very intense, demanding
  2. Strict or harsh.
  3. Very plain in style or appearance.

Hmm. How does that translate to a religious mindset?

  1. Life is serious and hard.
  2. We must be strict with our time, denying ourselves to help others.
  3. Never draw attention to oneself in the glittery ways of the world.


people without joy are severeWell, yes, that’s somewhat true—but something essential is missing.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Babette’s Feast, the religious people in that story were the epitome of severe. In their community, they refused any form of pleasure—barely even salting their soup! They dressed modestly in unadorned attire. With age, they became grouchy and harsh. And so, in my view, God had to woo them out of their false religious narrative with a great outpouring of extravagant love through an amazing feast.

If joyless, cynical, cranky people represent the Kingdom of God—seriously, who’d sign up?

joy of givingSo one Christmas, years ago, I woke up feeling guilty about presents and special food as usual. I compensated by reading my Bible—Well at least you’re spending some time in the Word. You really should be serving a Christmas meal to the homeless.

Do you recognize that voice? 

Yet, to my surprise, the Spirit of the Lord spoke loud and clear. I happened to be reading Nehemiah. The text recounts the return of God’s people from captivity to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem under great opposition. It’s a story of restoration. But when God’s laws were read publicly, the people mourned and wept over their failures. Here’s what Nehemiah said in response…

joy of God“‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 

“So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.’ All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.”

—Nehemiah 8:9-12

joy is written on her faceEat, drink and be merry? In the Bible? Yes.

In effect, God is saying—“Celebrate the birth of My Son! Throw off this religious yoke that keeps you from joy, for joy is the essence of My Kingdom.”

And from that moment on, I learned to enjoy the joy of Christmas.


  1. this is such beautiful truth that many ears need to hear and many christian eyes need it pointed out to them . . . like IT’S IN THE BIBLE, guys, see? don’t worry, be happy. what earthly daddy, even in his fallen state, doesn’t want his child in whom he delights to laugh and play, be tickled pink, lighthearted! that happy child’s joy shouts god’s love to the world, it can’t be missed! speaks way way way louder than severe pious worried words. after all, we say Merry Christmas, right? your post is the best christmas present i can think of. thanks, darling. i need this reminder as much as i need air. okay, i’ll stop now! oh, and merry christmas to you and yours.