Friday, December 19, 2014

What John-Boy Walton Taught Me About Christmas Joy

I love watching reruns of old TV shows, especially during the holidays, because they represent a simpler life of days gone by. “The Waltons” was set in the late 1930s and 1940s, when survival was difficult at best, and life was unencumbered by materialism.

Fast forward to today. It’s rare to find a smiling face among the sea of Christmas shoppers in the mall or at Wal-Mart.

Where did everyone’s Christmas joy go?

I imagine it began disappearing about the same time traditional values in America started disappearing. And, I’ll admit, I don’t feel the same Christmas joy I experienced as a child. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to the fact that in adulthood, life has a totally different perspective anyway. Even so, no one seems to truly enjoy the season anymore. Instead, conversations center around what still needs to be done in the mad rush to the 25th. Everything materialistic, and nothing about Jesus.

Even worse than losing joy is the rise of seasonal depression that ensnares many during the holidays.

So how do we overcome the holiday dread and get our joy back? While a good place to start is refocusing on the reason for Christmas—Jesus’s birthday—some of the answer may lie in what the old traditional shows tried to depict—It’s not about us!

“The Waltons” along with popular shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Little House On The Prairie” had something in common. Though fictitious, the message behind their Christmas shows is as real today as it was almost a half century ago when they were filmed.

Joy means spending time with family and friends, not in the store. The Waltons were based on the real family of author Earl Hamner, portrayed as John-Boy Walton in the series. Growing up in the depression and World War II, the Walton children depended on each other and their finite resources to enjoy any holiday. From making their own gifts to stretching their meager resources for meals, the Waltons’ joy was contagious. Christmas wasn’t about self. Often included in their festivities were neighbors and friends who didn’t have family. Their long wooden table overflowed with people at meal time then spilled into the living room to gather around the piano for Christmas carols.

Joy involves giving to the less fortunate, not to those who already have an abundance of blessings. Giving doesn’t always include material items, nor should it just be seasonal. Although it’s chic to serve at homeless shelters during the holidays, serving people we cross paths with every day is equally important. After all, Jesus didn’t intend for us to just “show up” at Christmas. Give a few dollars to the person on the street corner holding a sign, donate to a food pantry, offer encouragement to a young mother struggling with her children or a simple smile to someone at the supermarket. I've had some interesting conversations with elderly people in the grocery store. Many are alone and appreciate a few minutes of your time. J

There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts with friends and family, and many Jewish customs and festivities Jesus would’ve participated in certainly included gifts. But does anything bring greater joy than giving to someone who can’t possibly return the favor?

Joy means putting aside differences at a time when the world desperately needs to see Jesus. In the memorable Andy Griffith show where local businessman Ben Weaver tries to hijack Christmas until he realizes he’s actually missing out, Sheriff Andy Taylor extends grace to this old man when he could have easily thrown the book at him. While we’re desperately trying to bring the unsaved into the arms of Jesus, the best way to do this is to extend Jesus’s grace to someone undeserving.  Nothing reflects Christmas like grace. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The joy you experience in extending love to someone, instead of condemnation, will radiate through your life all year long. And, in turn, you bring them joy.

If your spirit still needs a boost, why not find an old Christmas rerun of “The Waltons” or another of your favorite old TV shows? Maybe John-Boy and his family will help you get your Christmas joy back.

If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J Also, I don’t discount the fact that some people suffer with serious depression due to real crises during the holidays, perhaps even the loss of loved ones. Please know you have a special place in my prayers and heart. There is a tab at the top of the page with mental health resources, as well. Please don’t hesitate to utilize these.

God bless,

© Laura Hodges Poole

Thanks to everyone who bought "A Christmas Chance" and posted reviews on Amazon, helped promote it, or sent me encouraging emails about how the story touched you. On Sunday, 12/21/14, the price will be permanently reduced to 99 cents, so if you haven’t bought a copy, there’s no better time.

My next book, “While I’m Waiting,” will be available on Amazon in January. Based on some of my most popular blog posts, the devotional is about walking through trials while waiting on God to answer prayer.  It offers encouragement to live with hope instead of despair during the tough times in life. Check back for more information on the release date and a chance to win a copy of the book.

“Old Handmade Nativity Scene” image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/
“Woman Near Christmas Tree” image courtesy of marin/

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