I always find it sad when the Christmas stuff goes away but this year I find myself particularly sad. That’s because this was one of the best Christmas celebrations Laurie and I have ever had. We got to have all our kids, Michael and Carissa and Toby and Anna with us, and it was a blast. We no longer have the privilege of knowing we will get to be with them for Christmas, so to have them all was joyful in the extreme. But now they are back in their homes, getting back to their usual lives. With all the decorations gone everything just looks kind of blah. The holiday is so festive. But now the lights, the trees, the garlands and wreaths are all gone. The schedule returns to normal and everything just seems so…routine. For me it is a big letdown.
But after the big celebration the return to normal life can feel like such a letdown. There can almost be a sense of melancholy as we face the demands, the pace and the sameness of the routine. I suppose that is natural. But even in this there is hope. For me January and February are the two hardest months of the year. They have the coldest weather with short days and follow hard on the heels of the holidays. I can just grit my teeth and endure them as the routine grinds on. But that hardly seems like the “life to the fullest” that Jesus promised in John 10:10. It certainly isn’t “making the most of every opportunity” as Paul instructed in Ephesians 5:16.
So how should I approach the “return to normal” that starts immediately after January 1? There is no secret formula. It comes down to living by some familiar words. Psalm 118:24 says, “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I need to see each day for what it really is – a gift from God. I do not deserve to live another day. That I am alive today is a gift of his grace. So I should be thankful for each day. As I remember that this day is a gift from God I should also keep my focus on the fact that he has a reason for me being alive today. I can expect that God will give me opportunity to fulfill my reason for existing, and that is to serve him. If I will approach each day with the mindset of thanking God for the gift of another day and of looking for opportunities to serve him as I go through the day I will find his presence and his joy filling my heart. In such a day there is no such thing as routine, for each day presents new chances to give thanks and serve. Now that’s a recipe for joy.