"Restoring the Joy of Christmas"

  Blog Advent Count Down

by Brenda C Leyland

Days follow in sequence (Days 1 - 25)

I love Christmas and I get more child-like excited as the season approaches! In truth, I think I love the days leading up to Christmas more than Christmas Day itself. Although when I was a child, it was December 24th -- Christmas Eve -- that was my most treasured day of the year. For that was when our little family celebrated Christmas, except the turkey dinner, which was reserved for December 25th. 
But I do realize that sometimes it's harder to get in the Christmas spirit, especially when Life seems to load us down with problems and circumstances that hardly bear thinking about. And if the demands on our time, energy, and pocketbooks are already heavy, at this time of year with all its expectations, it weighs even heavier.

As my dear mom would say when one more thing would pile up, "It's enough to take the joy right out of living!"
So... if your life is feeling as heavy as a fruitcake and your joy seems as far flung as the star of Bethlehem, I invite you to stop by here during the month.
It'll be a little like opening a new window every morning on an advent calendar. And of course, it's my hope that when you 'open' that window you'll find something that puts a lightness in your step, a twinkle in your eye, or a little smile on your lips.

"May your walls know joy;
may every room hold laughter
and every window open to great possibility."
~ Mary Anne Radmacher-Hershey


by Brenda C Leyland


PostScript: Something For You


  Advent Series now a PDF Book

We're excited to let you know that we now have the Advent Count Down in PDF format as well. It gives you a chance to download or print off the book if you wish. Please note the format in the PDF will be a little different from the online posts, with some adjustments to text and graphics. Click here to download.  Enjoy! Brenda xox

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Free Downloadable Bookmark


Plus, we've also created a free downloadable bookmark that you print off on cardstock, punch a hole and add a festive ribbon. Click here to download.

Day 1. Watch For Moments

"Look for joy in every day things"

"December can be a hard time for many people, who keenly feel their life losses at a time when they expect to feel nothing but joy and celebration. Instead of expecting holiday times to be a perpetual infusion of happiness, we should learn to identify small, fleeting moments of joy in everyday things." ~ Meri's Musings
Every day things like...
* A stranger's smile at the post office...
* An out of the blue call from a friend...
* A gorgeous red winter coat in a store window...
* Brilliant blue jays wondering where the peanuts are...
* Clinking spoons in saucers mingling with happy chatter...
* Songs that reminds you God really, really loves you.
For, as Meri says, if we wait for the ruffles and flourishes to tell us it's time to take notice, we will have missed a thousand little episodes of joy.

* Note: This post was inspired by a post entitled Finding Joy Amidst the Loss on Meri's Musings.

Day 2. Let's Be Silly


"Be happy"

"Most of us would be upset if we were accused of being 'silly.' But the word 'silly' comes from the old English word selig -- its literal definition is 'to be blessed, happy, healthy and prosperous."

In light of that definition, courtesy of Zig Ziglar, I wish you a wonderfully silly day! Oh go ahead, be silly the other way too..... that's always good for adding joy-filled moments.

Day 3. Laugh Out Loud

"Take a dose of laughter medicine"

I know, sometimes it doesn't feel funny at all, but I've often noticed if I peer closely enough, there's a tiny space... the merest hint of an opportunity for humor to wiggle out... if I let it. I intentionally look for the humor in my situations.

For I've discovered when I make that choice, like a tiny air bubble, something lighter flutters to the top, and suddenly my world doesn't seem quite so bleak anymore.

Go find your laughing buddy and laugh your guts out. Chortle. Snort. Giggle. Gasp. Roll on the floor. Hold your stomach. Twitter. Tweet. Read the silly cards at the greeting card counter. Watch a movie that makes you laugh every time. For me I can include in my list: Planes, Trains and Automobiles ... Home Alone ... this scene from Mary Poppins.

Go have a laugh... it's a great joy restorer.


Day 4. Enjoy It

"Bake cookies only as long as you enjoy the process"

That's one way Helen Isolde, How to Have A Perfect Christmas says we can have a perfect Christmas. Seems like good advice for just about anything we're working on. As soon as we lose the joy of something, we should stop. Pay attention to how we are feeling and ask why everything's just gone emotionally downward.
It could be that we're tired and need a break; it could be that we're irritated because we'd rather be doing something else; perhaps it's that we're feeling pressured by expectations (real or perceived) and we don't like that feeling of being out of control.

It's okay to Stop. Quit. Reverse. Rest. Reschedule if necessary. If you need permission, give it to yourself ... you can, you know! Turn off the oven and come back later.

Day 5. Invite Someone To Play

"Create with your hands"

"Being invited to play changes everything. Invite. Play."
~ Kathryn Schuth
Joy often comes when we become so absorbed in creating something with our hands, using our fertile imagination, that we forget about everything else. As author Brenda Ueland once put it, we become like a child stringing beads in kindergarten -- happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.

~ paint ~ putter ~ puzzle ~
~ glue ~ sprinkle ~ bead ~
~ waltz ~ strum ~ skate ~


~ stitch ~ color ~ wrap ~
~ sing ~ compose ~ play ~
~eat ~ sip ~ bake ~ 


~ ponder ~ write ~ dream ~
~ craft ~ sculpt ~ read ~
~ decorate ~ draw ~ design ~

I invite you to play....let's go have fun!

Day 6. Just Be

"Stop right now"

"Take time every day to stop running, stop planning, stop multitasking, and be still. If five minutes a day is all you have, start with that." ~ Elizabeth Sam
There is something good and right to give ourselves permission to take a few minutes to stop and 'just be'... especially during these busy times.

Stop right now. Do it! Take a deep breath and say your name out loud. Gently. Soothingly. Now say this to yourself...

Best Beloved, I give you permission to stop what you're doing and be restful for 5 minutes. You're free to stop list making, baking, shopping, multi-tasking, zooming around doing chores on empty. AND, I release you from any sense of guilt or shame.

Draw another deep breath and let it out slowly. You should notice a difference -- a peaceful calm -- starting to settle around you. The stress and tension should start melting away. And feel a balance returning. You might even notice that the birds have been singing all morning and you're finally noticing.

Now go and live today... joyfully.

Day 7. Think Happy Thoughts

"Relive a beautiful memory"

Cast your thoughts back to your earliest Christmases. Were they happy ones? If so, there will be some memory that will make you feel, when you think about it, as if you are right back in it. And those happy thoughts will create the same warmth, love, or sense of childlike awe and wonder.

We don't aim to recreate those precious memories in our present lives, but I do believe they can be gifts from our Loving Creator for our present lives when we take time to remember them.

For in remembering, we experience that same sweet rush of feeling in our minds and emotions. We know that studies indicate that whether the experience is in real time or a remembered one, it affects our bodies, our minds, and our feelings the same way. 

So in the words of this wise snowman, think happy thoughts! And relive some of those moments with sweetness, awe, and wonder. It will change your day.

Day 8. Smile

"Up at the corners"

It's so simple.  It doesn't cost a thing. With just the mere hint -- even hearing the phrase 'up at the corners' our faces and our lips are teased ... cajoled into perking up, even if just a little.

Today you might have to brave jostling crowds at a busy mall. Why not decide to go with the deliberate intention to keep it 'up at the corners'. Meet people with a smile, remember they're just trying to get their stuff done too.

And, don't forget to smile at fretting babies and toddlers, strapped in their buggies in crowded, noisy grocery stores. Without getting too close as I don't want to intrude, I'll try and catch their eye. How often have their little frowns turned into burble-y grins. No words even have to been spoken.


Marvel at the thought that your very presence, through the gift of your smile, can change the atmosphere around you. People feel the shift -- I've seen it happen. And, if you are one who walks with God inside you, you are carrying 'heaven on earth' every place you go. Surely that must cause your face to break out into grin.

Day 9. The Joy Of Downsizing

"It's not all needful"

Sometimes we need the courage to say, I can't do it all this Christmas.

Sometimes we're so stressed and our energy levels are so low from these too-hectic lives we lead, when it comes to adding the holiday festivities and all those expectations to everything else, it about sends our minds and bodies over the edge. Shoulders sag. And feelings of being overwhelmed threaten to make us want to go to sleep and not wake up until January 1st. Such is the dilemma of our modern 21st century version of Christmas. 

So why can't we downsize the whole celebration? Pare down to what really matters. Do fewer, smaller, and less of everything.    
Don't haul out all the boxes of home decorations and holiday dishes. Just bring out a handful of items that signal meaning for you right now. Maybe all you desire are the pretty Christmas Rose teacups or the mugs with the whimsical snowmen, the package of festive paper napkins, and a string of twinkle lights with red ribbons.

One Christmas not so long ago, my sister was so unwell that she needed some ER treatment on two occasions. There was no way that she could do any shopping, decorating, baking. It was lay down and rest for weeks.

It seemed a little bleak at their house -- there were no holiday treats, no decorating, everything was quiet. But here's what happened just before Christmas.

My mom took an tiny two-foot decorated tree to their house and sat it on the fireplace ledge. I took baking and had holiday flowers with sparkles and greenery sent to the house. When the rest of the family met at my other sister's place on Christmas Day, my sister and her husband had the quietest Christmas. Between them they prepared a little Christmas supper of chicken, a wee bit of stuffing, even cranberries. They dug into my baking. Had one tiny present for each other. And that was it.

She told me later it was the best Christmas ever, even though she was unwell physically.

Why? Because she saw how little it actually took to make Christmas.

Day 10. Be A Santa's Elf

"Share a little Christmas cheer"

There is joy is forgetting about one's own troubles and taking note of what other people around you might be going through. There's a very good chance that when you look around, there will be someone who could do with a little Christmas cheer, maybe even more than you do.

Be a Santa's Elf ... or a Christmas Angel ... and do something for someone else. If you live in an apartment, hang a little treat bag on their door knob. Fill it with cookies or Christmas tea or a cute little felt snowman. A little book. A candy cane. Hot chocolate. Leave a note that says Merry Christmas from a Secret Friend.

And, of course, there are the times when someone may ask you for loose change. Bundle up an envelope ahead of time with a few spare dollars and maybe stick in some chocolate. Keep a spare knit hat or some socks in your backpack. Be prepared for opportunities. Make it into a little adventure. When you start looking for someone else who could do with a little Christmas cheer, suddenly you're experiencing the return of your joy.

Day 11. Have A Tea Party

"Come away awhile"

Invite a friend over for tea. Serve Christmas cookies and use this little get away time to have a friendly heart to heart, to laugh, or maybe even pray for one another.
Serve your Christmas Spiced Tea in pretty cups. Let the time be one where you can both be calm and relaxed, even if it's just for those few minutes before you both head back into the rush.

Day 12. Stop and Reflect

"Notice the gifts"

"Reflect on your present blessings of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." ~ Charles Dickens

During the rest of the Advent season, why not take a few moments every day -- maybe even more than once a day -- to make a quick list of seven 'gifts' for which you're grateful in the very moment you are writing them down. Don't ponder what to say ... let the things come up unbidden.

There is something about being aware of what you are thinking about in the present that shifts how we see them. For me, the blessings seem to be very near, and I begin to see how blessed, truly, I am every single moment of the day.

The more grateful we are for what we do have, the more the joy rises to the surface and gives us the strength we need for the rest of our day.

Day 13. Sing For Joy

"Listen to joy-filled music"

Throughout the season, I'm often humming snippets of old familiar carols -- those melodies that bring with them the feelings of happiness of Christmases as a child.... O Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger, The First Noel, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night. Carol of the Bells. And every child's favorite, Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls.  They are just so singable, aren't they?

Lots of people listen to the 'crooner' version of seasonal songs -- the more blues-jazz style -- but I noticed over recent years when I listen to these pieces I feel pulled down into their 'sadness'.

So if I'm already feeling less sparkly in mood, I stay away from them. Perhaps it's got something to do with the 'minor' keys they are played in, but lots of those sad mournful versions tend to wring the heart -- which is not helpful if you're in need of a d-a-s-h of joy.

When you need something more hopeful of heart, choose music that adds a bounce to your step, a lilt to your voice, and true hope in your heart.

Day 14. Light It Up

"Lights chase the night bears away"

With Christmas falling so close to the winter solstice, this can certainly affect the way some people feel about the holidays. What we hope to be a joy-filled time can often be filled with darker emotions. The nights fold us into midnight skies earlier and earlier, especially for those who live in northerly regions of the globe. It means that at this time of the year people head off to work in the dark and arrive home in the dark. Which can be depressing for some, especially those who deal with the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD--the suffering from extreme forms of depression and other symptoms due to the lack of sunlight).
Personally I'm fine with the early dusk -- I find it cozy -- but there was a time some years ago when I was not well in body and soul, and I found when it started getting dark out, I would feel unsettled and uncomfortable. In truth, I hated arriving home in the evenings to find the house standing in total darkness. It felt most unwelcoming.

So, I decided to do something about it -- I draped a couple of strands of twinkly white lights over the fig tree that stood near the front window of my living room. I added a timer and plugged it in, adjusting the timer so that it would trigger the lights to come on shortly before I arrived home.

It changed everything for me. Knowing the tree would be alight when I got home, as I walked into the house, I felt much comforted and cheered.

A lamp near a window, also on a timer, can create a welcoming ambiance. And, with the ability to use battery-operated candles these days, a person could safely set a candle or two on a window sill.
Chase away those night bears by turning on some lights. And let joy return.

Day 15. Let's Make Something


"Be a child at heart"

Do you remember how much fun it used to be, when you were a child, and the teacher at school would tell the class to put away their books because today we're going to work on Christmas decorations in art class?

And you'd make all sorts of treasures fashioned out of buttons and egg cartons and colored bits of paper, silver and gold chocolate bar wrappers, old catalog or magazine pictures, felt, yarn and ribbons.

Today plan a time when you can do that again. Whether or not you have kids, grand-kids, nieces or nephews to do it with ... just do it for yourself.

Gather up some bits and pieces you have about the house, clear off your kitchen table and be a kid again for a little while. This isn't about being perfect. It's about letting your child at heart have some time to play again. Not even grown up crafts, but kids' crafts.

If you don't know where to start, check out Kids Craft. It looks like great fun. Below are samples:  The puzzle piece tree, the snowman snow globes from baby food jars, and the wine cork angels. Any one of these would make great table favors for the Christmas table.

Don't you feel the joy starting to bubble up at the thought of it?




Day 16. Restore the Joy

"Clear out the joy stealers"

If you are familiar with the Book of Psalms, you might well recall the time when the Psalmist David beseeches God to restore the joy of his salvation. Looking at the context of his situation, we find he'd lost his joy because he had done a few things that went totally against his own conscience, not to mention the Royal Law of Love. And until he brought the wrong-doing out into the open for it to be dealt with, he was robbed of his joy.

Sometimes we may need to ask ourselves if the reason our joy is missing is because something is out of order in our lives. Maybe there's a strain in a relationship from an unkind word flung out in the heat of the moment. Or, we've left a good deed undone. Perhaps we've allowed minor irritations and petty grievances to make a home in our hearts and now they have turned the tables and agitate our souls like sand in our shoes.

Restoring our joy can be as simple as recognizing those niggling 'joy stealers' and taking action right away to put things back in order. Make things right. Clear the air.

Lord, as we bring these joy stealers out into the open, we ask for mercy.
Cleanse us and restore to us the joy of our salvation.


Day 17. Close Your Eyes

Source: unknown

"And don't peek"

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"You can't look" she said.

"I promise."

He loved it when someone had a secret thing to present,

and asked him not to look, and he had to promise he wouldn't.

He faced the tree, and as an extra precaution, shut his eyes.

Timothy and Cynthia on Christmas Eve as she goes to get his present
~ from Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon, p. 262

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There is something very special about secrets at Christmas. There's such a sense of wonder and awe in the air. You feel the anticipated joy, and you giggle inside because you can hardly imagine what the surprise could be.

It tickles your heart that someone is making a fuss over you, asking you to go along with that old playful ritual about how you have to close your eyes and promise not open them until the person says you can look now.

And, then there it is in front of you ... the very thing you were longing for, even if you didn't know it until you saw it right then. And your heart expands with an explosion of joy, not only at the gift but for the giver whose regard and affection for you in that moment is so evident that you feel cherished.

I'm hoping that you have experienced such a moment at least once in your life. Hopefully more than once. And, I hope you haven't forgotten how to do that for someone else. As there really is something special in that seemingly ordinary little ritual.

There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved:
It is God's finger on man's shoulder.
~ Charles Morgan

Why not create such a moment for someone this Christmas... and watch your own joy increase when you watch her eyes light up and realize she means the world to you.

Day 18. Look At The Bright Side

"Lighten up" 

Having the willingness to look at the bright side, along with the ability to laugh a little at ourselves and the ways of the world, really does help bring back a sense of proportion to any situation. And can change our response and attitude towards it.

How often, after ranting on about something -- hands on hips all puffed up with indignation -- have I found myself giggling. It's as if I've caught a glimpse of 'me' in the mirror of self-reflection and I see just how silly I must look from the outside, feathers all fluffed every which-a-way, like an outraged wet hen.

Ha ... a touch of humor, a little laughter, are God's good gifts to help us diffuse many of life's irritating moments. If we choose to lighten up, that bit of humour will lift our spirits, ease the burden, and brighten the world around us.


Day 19. A Little Nativity Humour

"Out of the mouth of babes"


Everyone who has ever watched little children in the annual Christmas Pageant or school concert knows how real, funny, and sweet they can be. Cute as buttons. Hilarious to watch! And sometimes very profound in their innocence.

We came across this little story the other day -- it made me chuckle. The young lad playing Joseph certainly didn't have any 'grass growing under his feet'.

We hope you have your own chuckle ... and take time to remember with joy your cute kids stories this Christmas!

Aside ... Speaking of funny things that happen at Christmas Pageants, if you've never read Barbara Robinson's 1972 story The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, you really must find a copy. Your funny bone will be tickled deliciously.

And now to the little story...

"You may have heard before of the Nativity play in which a small boy had set his heart on being one of the Wise men, but was deeply disappointed and annoyed to be given the part of the innkeeper instead.

That's why he introduced an unscripted amendment to the official version, and when Joseph knocked at his door, he replied, " Come in, there's plenty of room.!"

Joseph was equal to the occasion, however. He poked his head inside, had a quick look round, and retorted, "I'm not taking my wife into a place like that. Come on, Mary, we'll sleep in the stable."
~ The Friendship Book of Francis Gay 1996, December 24th entry

Day 20. Take Some Rest

"Go look for your blankie"

“Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.” ~ Robert Fulghum

Nothing can send Joy packing faster than being overtired. Which means it might just as easily be restored if we were to take some rest, a nap, or just sit down with our feet up for a few minutes. Especially on a busy day.

Ha, you say, who's got time in these busy last days before Christmas? But, then there's this question, who's got time to be sick when our bodies finally fold 'er in and say that's all for now, folks. The Christmas cards can wait -- send New Year's greetings if you must. The downstairs bathroom can wait too. Tidy up, not spring clean. Buy the cookies if you still need baking.Wind it up. Call it done for today.

Pour yourself a steaming cup of comfort tea and begin to cull your to-do lists to the absolute minimum. Make the intention to include some rest in the coming days. With this refreshment, joy will return.

Day 21. Watch A Love Letter

"Rest in His love"

It's been some time now since I first heard this beautiful narration of Father's Love Letter. I was so touched by its beautiful and affirming words. It doesn't matter how many times I've watched it since, I feel such tenderness, consolation, and comfort as I draw near to the One who speaks these kind words of love over me.

I hope that this Christmas you will find a restoration of your own joy as you watch this short video and let these lovely words wrap around your heart and mind.

God Loves You.
And He is the Father
you have been looking for all your life.
This is His love letter to you.

Here is the link

Day 22. Put On Your Coat

"Take joy in your world"

Go out into your world today. Bundle up and go for a walk. Commune with nature a little -- let its restorative beauty bring a sense of peace to your mind and re-connect your heart to the One who designed it all in the first place.

Notice how vivid the red berries look. Or laugh at the magpies when they lecture from a tree top because you forgot to set out their daily peanut portion.

Watch how the blue shadows shift on piles of snow. Greet the cheery snowman. Listen to the wind sough through evergreens. Watch how the evening shadows fall and how the winter sunset barely tinges the sky that peachy pink.

Go out into your world today. And take joy in it. 

Day 23. Celebrate The Tree

"Wait in wonder"

"I think the child in any of us is not far away at Christmas. We get some sort of special permission, perhaps, to dream and savor and dance." ~ Nancy Shuman, fellow blogger

This little spruce tree in the photo above, with its simple decorations and single strand of colourful bulbs, aglow in the soft light, reminds me so much of the Christmas trees of my girlhood.

I can almost smell the spruce gum. How I loved to let my small fingers brush across the prickly branches, breaking some of the needles to release that sprucy fragrance. And then to breathe in deeply. Trying to catch its essence. It was such a satisfying smell. Clean, pungent, fresh. 

And how I loved to sit in the darkened living room and just look at the tree. Admiring, first the red lights, then the blue ones, the orange, and the green. Closing my eyes just a little so the lights would transform into twinkly stars. I'd then look at the pretty ornaments, our homemade ones too, taking in the details. Tucking them away in my mind as tenderly as one would pack away delicate glass ornaments for another year. 

O the child-like delight of sitting in a room where only the tree lights shine their sweet beauty. Something about it sets one's heart aright. And causes one to feel the magic. A holy hush settles... And, then comes the joy, soft like a kitten's paws. Or, like gently falling snow.

Day 24. Christmas Eve

"O come let us draw near"

Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1620 "Adoration of the Child

And, so we come to this moment in time. Here, dear ones, is a reason... the chief reason... for the joy in my world. Because of Jesus the Christ, I can enjoy all other beautiful and wondrous things in my life so much more.

Just like those young girls in the painting, whose faces glow with silent adoration, when I gave my heart to Jesus and fell in love with Him as a girl a little older than them, I knew my life would be changed completely. And I knew at the tender age it was going to be a forever love story.

He poured not only His love into my heart, but gave me so much Joy that day I invited him into my life. To this day, whenever life turns up-side-down for me, the moment I turn my eyes and thoughts back to him, my joy returns.

I'll be forever grateful that He once came as a little baby boy to bring people so much joy. Yes, religion gets mixed up in it, but He ... He is pure joy.

On this most favourite and wondrous nights of the year I want to share, as my gift to you, a song. From the very first notes I heard playing on the radio drew me 'ere I ever heard the words. That dark winter morning when I  got back into the car with my java, something almost whoosed from the radio to greet me. The words, the music, everything..... touched me then, and speak to me yet.

"How a little baby boy bring the people so much joy
Son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This must be Christmas, must be tonight"

It would be my heart's desire that you'd feel its wonder too on this Christmas Eve. Click here for the YouTube version of Christmas Must Be Tonight by Canadian singer/songwriter Robbie Robertson, and here for the lyrics.