There’s two kinds of Christmas stories: The ones where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our loved ones and families, all the good warm fuzzy things that come with the season; and the ones where we lament about our lack of enthusiasm for any kind of celebration at all.

The latter stories are usually triggered by over-commercialisation, over-hype, over-activity, and the fact that our troubles from the rest of the year aren’t cutting us any slack despite the sudden semblances of joy around us.

What’s there to be so joyful about? I’m not even this joyful on my birthday – much less someone else’s. No hard feelings, right, Jesus?

I don’t think we notice it, but the stress that seems to tighten its grip around us as December rolls in comes from this flood of joy. And if joy hasn’t been on your programme for the past 11 months, it’s downright disconcerting to be hard-pressed by the fairy lights and spirited Christmas music (and certain Christmas enthusiasts) to get out and put on your love, hope and good cheer.

You see, almost nobody spends the rest of the year this loving, hopeful and cheerful! It’s no wonder the Christmas spirit always feels so uncomfortable to wear for so many of us. And after spending most of this year walking in the shadows of difficult times, joy doesn’t quite so fit me either.

I have to admit, the Lord does not appear to have come to save me from many of the trials I will still face after the 12 Days of Christmas. Maybe it’s the same for some of you. Maybe you’re in the thick of worry, sickness, depression, sadness … And no matter how bright and sparkly the lights of the season are, they only serve to show you how stark the darkness has gotten.

But a thought came to me one day, just as November turned into December. Something a pastor had preached on the Sabbath resurfaced in my mind:

“With regard to time, there’s something predictable and scheduled that God has given to us, and that’s the Sabbath. It’s routine. It’s scheduled. It’s cyclical. It’s God’s way of placing order in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable life. It’s a call for us to abandon our attempts to bring order into our own lives in order to embrace God’s divine order through the governing of our time. The Sabbath is God’s invasion of our reality in the realm of time. Our reality can be dictated by our circumstances, or we can keep His Sabbath and allow Him to dictate our reality.”

What if Christmas was a form of Sabbath for us to intentionally abandon our sorrows for a season and take a deep breath of joy?

What if it was the best reason to take a break from our usual anxieties, to force our minds to stay on the truth that God has a salvation plan and, for once, refuse to despair?

It’s almost counterintuitive, but like the Sabbath, it reminds us who’s in control. And when we choose to honour it for what it is – the joyous birth of our Saviour – we embrace God’s divine order for the new year ahead.

What if Christmas was a form of Sabbath for us to intentionally abandon our sorrows for a season and take a deep breath of joy?

If the Sabbath is God’s invasion of our reality in the realm of time, Christmas was and is God’s invasion of our destiny in the realm of eternity. After all, through the birth of Jesus, the greatest light shone in the deepest darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it (John 1:5).

So for the month of December, every time I find myself steering down familiar dark roads of thought and emotion, I’ve been intentionally choosing to return to joy, love, hope and good cheer. I invite you to do the same – even if there’s not much of 2017 left.

The world didn’t know it then – as you may not now – but Christmas was just what it needed.