Two weeks ago our family began our Christmas celebration with a warm-hearted adventure in frigid Toronto. It was everything I wanted it to be, with God revealing how disappointments could end up turning into something even better. But, I also noticed that amid the excitement of exploring a new city with great sights; it was the simple things that gave me great joy. Simple things can be enjoyed wherever we go, even if we go nowhere at all!
Niagara Falls was showing off glittering lights around the Falls. From the last trip to Niagara Falls, I remembered that they would be on display during the winter. We took a detour and had the pleasure of enjoying the sparkling Christmas scene on the way to the hotel in Toronto. What a beautiful scene!
But I especially loved how the lights looked draped from a single tree. Perhaps it’s because I absolutely love trees, and how God has created each one unique with its beautiful branches and knots. It’s simply mesmerizing to stare up at the height of a lone tree, stretched out proud and standing tall.
The CN Tower in Toronto was expensive but worth the fun with its glass floor and expansive views of Lake Ontario. Those in my family with a fear of heights conquered it, by trusting and encouraging each another. I, for one, actually love heights!
But my favorite view was simply free. It was the surprise rooftop view from our hotel. The cold air revitalized me, and the twinkling lights of Christmas were festive. My favorite simple joy was watching my daughter “snowbathe” on a lounge chair in her winter coat and boats. Her enthusiasm of throwing herself into the Canadian Christmas experience made me laugh and warmed my heart.
The Grand Hotel was lovely with pretty tables all set for breakfast each morning. As we planned for our full day, we noticed it was spitting snow outside. A light snow is something we often see at home in Virginia, so we didn’t give it much thought. But then… there he was; an Asian boy around the age of 11. He was staring out the window; when he did a little hop, skip, and jump into the air! He turned to his family with a smile… delighted. Snow! Suddenly dozens of tourists from Singapore rushed over and completely filled the windows. They were so excited!
Animatedly talking in a foreign tongue, they quickly snapped photo after photo. A little girl with long black hair stood long after they had gone, watching the tiny flakes, hoping for more… snow! Happy tears stung my eyes. It was the simple joy of seeing beautiful people so excited over watching tiny snowflakes falling from the sky, which wrenched at my heart in a good way.
We had an amazing meal one night at a French restaurant called Papillon (French, for butterfly). The food was exquisite, service outstanding, and atmosphere cozy and festive. But my favorite thing was just being able to sit and relax with my family and soak in their joy. Of course a fancy, beautiful restaurant is delightful; but my daughter loved her simple pasta dish. It’s a favorite comfort food which helped her feel settled after a long, fun, tiring day. My family’s joy reminded me that we love and need to gather for a simple meal; to rest, talk, laugh, and just be together. Breaking bread can happen anywhere. It’s about relationships, and thanking God for His provision.
Ice skating on the last night, was our favorite family activity. We hadn’t skated for years, and I wasn’t as steady, but I could still skate backwards! Watching my family have fun doing a winter sport together gave me great joy. I also loved watching people of all different ethnicities navigating their way on the ice of Nathan Phillips Square. While struggling to get onto the ice, I saw an Indian Canadian young adult lacing his skates. He’d been watching me and smiling. I promised him that I could actually skate! He laughed, confessing to me that he had never skated before. We kept waving to each other throughout the evening, and I checked on him when he fell.
A young Middle Eastern Muslim girl gingerly stepped onto the ice while holding tightly to her Canadian Asian friend. We all giggled as we took in each other’s faces: Could we do this? Later that night I spotted her head covering: her friend had let her go, and she was gliding toward me, screaming… she couldn’t stop! We looked at each other, and found the same thing… brown twinkling eyes, and mouths wide with laughter! The joy of watching beautiful people of all ethnicities skate together and make brief friendships if only for a sweet moment, filled up my heart. God loves each one of us all over the world. How He must delight in watching us from up above, when we gather under His beautiful night sky lit by stars and twinkling lights… Many have come to a festive place, in celebration of Christmas. It’s the season meant to shed light on the birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Trees, snow, physical activity, different races and beautiful faces: all created naturally by God. Sometimes God’s children can’t afford the time, financial strain, or energy to go on a vacation. But the silver lining is that we can experience great joy in the simple things God has given us right where we are; and an even greater joy in watching others delight in them. It may be a child splashing through puddles while shrieking in delight, hearing a street performer play a familiar tune on his guitar, or climbing a tree in the park. If we slow down and pay attention to our surroundings, God has many joyful things to show us. When our heart is in line with His, we will derive pleasure from the happiness of others. Why? Because part of loving people is finding selfless pleasure at watching others delight in their own joyful moments.
After all, isn’t that how God reacts to our joy as we delight in His good gifts? It must give Him great joy to see us marvel under a blanket of twinkling stars, admire a tall tree glowing in the moonlight, or get excited over the first snowfall of the season. How He must laugh, along with our families and friends, as we glide over the ice he created from water and frigid temperatures. GOD did that! When we make friends with people of other nationalities, if only for a night, doesn’t God delight in it all? After all, he is our Creator, and He is the host of the Christmas party.
Does He cry happy tears when we clap our hands because it’s snowing? Does His heart leap when we lend a hand to a stranger who has fallen in the ice? Does He sing when we: visit another country and try to speak each other’s languages, delight in the beauty of other races and cultures, or befriend someone of another religion? Yes. Of course He does… because God is love… and it is reason to rejoice.
Simple things are those that anyone can enjoy. Jesus was born in a simple stable; a gift for all mankind. Simple things are available to everyone. Jesus’s salvation is here for each and every one of us. The joy of others spreads joy within us. When others find Jesus and repent, we rejoice. So do the angels in Heaven, created by God to protect, guide, and give us joyful news:
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents'” (Luke 15:10 ESV).
Your repentance makes the angels rejoice! We are each offered the greatest, grandest gift of eternal life, yet it only takes the simplest act of faith and repentance to receive it. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Accept your gift, and find joy in Jesus!