When it Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Christmas is such a joyous time! All the decorations, the gifts, the celebrations make the days full of delights – and busyness. But what happens when for one reason or another it doesn’t feel like Christmas? Can it still be a joyous season?

There are many reasons why Christmas can not feel right. Maybe a loved one has recently passed and this is the first season without them. Or perhaps money is tight and there aren’t gifts to be shared.  Health issues, relationship issues, financial issues, the weather – the list goes on. For me, it’s not anything severe this year. The truth is that busyness has sucked the Christmas right out of the season.

This fall I decided to repaint my kids’ rooms, and like most home improvement projects, one thing led to another and we’re still not done. Meanwhile the kids’ belongings are everywhere in my house – the living room, the hallway, the kitchen, the dining room – literally EVERYWHERE!  With all of the chaos and mess, there’s no room for decorations. There’s no tree this year, no lights, no candles, no angels. The only things I have out are my Christmas coffee mugs and a nativity set that my dad brought back from a mission trip to Haiti. Yet Christmas isn’t about decorations. Yes they are fun and provide a festive atmosphere, but they are not the reason we celebrate.

We also decided to take a big family vacation at Thanksgiving to Hawaii (I know, I know. We’re really suffering.) By the time we got back we had to hit the ground running. Our choir performance was in less than two week, and my daughter and I were acting in the drama. I was selling my books at a craft fair the weekend after I got back. Plus there is school, work, finals, not to mention the additional Christmas activities like getting Christmas cards out, making treats, buying gifts – it never seems to stop long enough for me to catch my breath. But all of that – no matter how important – is still not the reason we celebrate. 

As a family we’ve been doing a devotional that takes a Christmas carol and unpacks the truths in it. Over and over again, it has challenged and spoken to my heart. It’s easy for me to get lost in the busyness, to search for the happiness instead of the joyfulness, to enjoy the outer trappings and miss the inner beauty. The decorations aren’t important. They are temporary and superficial. The busyness is just that. It doesn’t make Christmas more special – only more stressful. What makes Christmas joyous is the baby who was born in a manger to die on a cross to leave an empty tomb behind when He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us when He returns. He came from heaven for us, to bring us life and joy and peace. Nothing else matters.

If you’re struggling this Christmas because it doesn’t feel like Christmas, I want to encourage you to do a few things. First, recognize that it’s okay to simplify. Don’t let others make you feel bad for not decorating or participating in every event that comes along. Second, find a Bible study that focuses on the events that happened that first Christmas. Take time to look at as if you were hearing it for the first time. Wonder in the gift that God gave. Third, have times of quiet with God. Tell Him everything – your hurts, your anger, your sadness, your worry, your fears, your disappointments – everything. Let Him bring you peace. Finally, if you are struggling with depression this holiday season, don’t struggle alone. There are so many people who would love to help you.

To those who are cheerfully immersed in the Christmas season – Merry Christmas! And to those who are feeling a little lost and out of sorts – Merry Christmas to you as well! It might not be the best Christmas ever, but remember that Jesus was called Emmanuel – God with us – for a reason, and He is still with us. Merry Christmas!

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