The stores are stuffed with the newest holiday bling and hottest must-have toys.
They are decked in red and green, twinkling, Christmas.
But it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me.
My holiday decor is minimal this year: a tree, a wreath, a nativity and three toys for each of my kids.
I broke down in the Christmas aisle in the middle of WalMart the other day. I was standing surrounded by bright toys, row after row of excess. I realized that all the stuff we cram into the holiday season isn’t Christmas [the celebration of Christ’s birth]. It’s the American dream in red and green. It’s the same, only packaged in holiday colors.
I’ve spent the last nine months redefining normal. I’ve had questions from many that all sound the same, “Are you over Africa yet?”
What is the answer to something you never want to get over?
It doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.
But that’s okay. I don’t need another season. I don’t need another party to attend or gift to receive.
I need Jesus.
I need the simplicity of a manger.
I need the rawness of dirty hay and a primitive birth.
I need to remember the Holy Child in all His glory. I need to commune with the King of Kings.
It may not feel like Christmas.
But maybe it’s not supposed to.
It’s easy to lose Him in the holidays. How do you keep it simple and keep the focus on Jesus?
By Kristen, We are THAT family
I understand that feeling 100%, but for the opposite reason. Instead of having TOO much in excess, we have NOTHING! I live in a country where Christmas is not celebrated or recognized for that matter, which makes it extremely difficult to get into the holiday mindset….. BUT you are sooooo right! Its not about what we have or don’t have… its about Jesus! What a terrific reminder of that, no matter what side of the materialism war we are living in 🙂
Melissa @ Breath of Life says
It sounds like to me it feels exactly like Christmas this year. True Christmas…not the Americanized version of it.
I think you do need another gift, the gift of permission to grief.
The idea that Christmas OUGHT to feel like anything in particular is a myth. Those Christmases where I was “elsewhere” in my thoughts and heart and I just went with the flow of it, those were years I found Emmanuel, God showing up, most clearly. No, maybe it didn’t look like a Rockwell painting or a Hallmark movie or anything I’d seen before or thought I longed for, but He showed up right on time, absent of glitz and glitter, but shining and precious. The peace of Christmas enveloped. He will not fail you this year either.
You have written beautifully and from the heart, this post. Thank you for it.
Like I said in a previous post… You won’t ever be over Africa. And that is how God wants it – He put that in your heart.
We don’t give many gifts either – three is our max. And to celebrate we do a daily advent calendar. Lydia picks out what she wants to put on it and then I try to explane that part of the story to her. It’s hard as she is still under two, but someday explanations will get longer and she will understand more.
This year we completed ALL of our chosen traditional Christmas things before Dec. 1st. I ordered, addressed and stamped and sealed our cards in September.
For the rest, we kept it simple: the lights, tree and decorations… all very minimal.
We were blessed to convince (with YEARS of prodding behind us) the majority of our family to join together and give to people in need, rather than adding to our own overabundance.
We gave our son his three gifts from us on the weekend of the 6th to get it out of them way and keep from the distraction of receiving.
And we set ourselves up (with God’s guidance and help) with an awesome daily advent from Ann over at a holy experience, and fun community Christmas activities and volunteering on our calendar.
It has been a blessing. 🙂
Becky Terry says
How to keep it simple and focus on Jesus ~ hmmmm, let’s see.
Don’t let the world and today’s culture dictate what your Christmas should look like and be like.
Just say no ~ excessive shopping, too many Christmas parties/events, too much decorating/baking. Pare it down.
Be INTENTIONAL about your time with God. Mark it in your day-planner….time with God ~ EVERYDAY.
Hope that helps.
Blessings to you and yours as we celebrate our Savior’s glorious and humble birth,
I Live in an Antbed says
Making it all about Him and what He desires of us helps us combat the crass commercialism that tries to bleed all the Truth out of this time of year. We are beating back the busyness so we have time to savor.
Shelli @ Hopefully Devoted says
I wonder sometimes if there could be another name for the “Christmas” that most Americans celebrate – Santa, excess, greed, etc. – because it almost seems to be taking the Lord’s name in vain to celebrate THAT and call it CHRISTmas. I actually don’t get offended by the Happy Holiday greetings instead of Merry Christmas, because, frankly, most people aren’t celebrating Christ; they are just celebrating a holiday (even that is a misused word because they are not celebrating a true HOLY day). Let the world have their own name for this season and greet one another with those wishes. Then when we hear a “Merry Christmas” we know we are truly being blessed with a message of Christ.
So while you may not be feeling the excitement that you once did for the world’s version of this season, perhaps for the first time you are truly experiencing CHRISTmas. Perhaps in stripping off all the glitter and greed, you are feeling CHRISTmas as it was meant to be felt.
Merry CHRISTmas, friend.
Kelly Ann says
Beautiful. And exactly how I am feeling after returning from my mission trip to Cambodia. Hoping your simple Christmas leaves all the more room for JESUS!
Laura@life overseas says
Loved this reminder. I live in a Buddhist country and it definitely doesn’t “feel” like Christmas over here for our family, either! But I am being reminding this year that Christmas is not about what you don’t have– it’s about what you DO have. And living in a place where you can barely get a plastic tree is reminding me that Christmas is not about the perfect house or spread or toys–
It really is about people. And the Person.
Thanks for the reminder of the deep goodness of that.
Jennifer P says
I have never been able to put my feelings of ambivalence about December into words until now. Thank you for expressing what I feel. It is just ALL TOO MUCH, what our culture has deemed “necessary”. We are talking a lot about giving this season, giving to orphans, the widow, the poor in money, and the poor in spirit. I don’t know how we are supposed to “feel” about Christmas but I’ll bet Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, does.
You described my heart this year, as I’ve been experiencing life since becoming a Compassion Advocate and going to Honduras in June/July… I haven’t stepped foot in a mall, my heart breaks seeing my sons’ lists, and rejoices in seeing my daughter’s — she gets it! She REALLY gets it. I told my husband that what I want MOST for Christmas is NOTHING else than for him to see and understand where my heart is… that I truly want for nothing, I have Jesus.
In terms of eternal gifts, the real meaning of Christmas, we’re adopting a little girl, and I’d love for her to be home for Christmas. Please pray.
Cindy Hannon says
Thank you for sharing this, praying you have your little girl this Christmas. God’s blessings for your family.
We are THAT family says
Praying. What a gift this will be!
i feel like you are reading my heart! this is what i feel! my heart is in africa. just returned not long ago from there. and i want christmas in africa. not the over yuck of christmas here. thank you. thank you.
Amber @ Classic Housewife says
I love this line: “It’s the American dream in red and green. It’s the same, only packaged in holiday colors.” That’s it, exactly! The kids and I are learning the history of Christmas traditions and symbols this year. I really think that helps bring a lot of clarity to some of our “holiday colors.”
I wrote a post earlier in the week, it’s still at the top of my blog, about finding Jesus in Christmas. For me, I turned to the magi for wisdom. They sought him, they came to him, and then they fell down and WORSHIPED him. Decorating more (or less) even intentionally doesn’t bring us into worship, we need to seek him, go to him and worship him – and then all the Christmas lights are background noise, not center stage.
P.S. Are you SUPPOSED to get over Africa? When God changes our hearts, doesn’t he like them to stay that way? 😉 God bless you, Kristen! Merry CHRISTmas!
We are THAT family says
Good question! I think the answer is no, for me. I don’t WANT to get over it.
Beth Williams says
How so very true! I feel like everyone has lost the meaning of Christmas & just thinks of gifts, etc.
I wish we could all get back to the true meaning of Christmas – a baby born humbly in a manger with 2 loving parents!
You echo so many of my thoughts and feelings this year–and many I talk to are saying the same thing: it doesn’t feel like Christmas. I believe the Lord is leading us to the real meaning of His coming, not just as a babe, as King. The transition period, like when giving birth to children, is the most uncomfortable. This is where I am. And I appreciate your words that encourage and inspire me to seek Christ in the least of these.
I hear you. I’ve had a hard time the last couple of years getting into the “Christmas spirit” and I usually love Christmas. It seems that each year, Christmas comes earlier and earlier and people get greedier and greedier. I am grateful that my sons biggest Christmas wish this year is to be with his family and to serve the community.
As for Africa, it is something you never get over! 🙂
Jenny @ The Southern Institute says
It’s so hard when you are surrounded by the shininess of “Christmas”. But the manger was not a shiny sparkly place. That barn was not decked out with tinsel and lights, but the light of the world was born there amidst the dirt and hay. We are constantly reminding our children that Christmas is about God’s gift to us, Jesus Christ.
Cindy Hannon says
This was beautiful, this year I was surprised right after halloween seeing Christmas things in the stores. But is that all bad? I think it depends on where your heart is. At the heart of CHRISTmas is God’s amazing love for us. To me, I see the early reminder as a reminder to start early so I can reflect during the season. I am working this CHRISTmas season to prepare my heart to come into a closer relationship with my Lord. It is a good thing, the spirit of CHRISTmas is remembering that without the empty Cross, there would have been no manger. Have a very Blessed and Joyous CHRISTmas everyone.
Farmer Gal says
Thank you for sharing this. I feel like such a scrooge this year, because all the ‘things’ just aren’t doing anything for me, and I can’t pretend that they do. I think all the excess of Christmas actually brings me down a bit. Or a lot! Even though it doesn’t feel like it, I know it is a blessing… That Jesus is helping me keep my eyes on Him.
Due to my job, I haven’t been home for Christmas in four years and it’s HARD. I have learned to remember what the REAL meaning of Christmas is over the years and try to truly celebrate the grand fact of Jesus’ birth this time of year. On my first Christmas away from my family, I drove out to the mountains at night and stopped in front of a lit up cross listening to Christmas carols. In that moment at the age of 22, I finally realized what Christmas meant, away from the hustle and bustle.
It is true, all we need is Jesus, it is suppose to be all about HIM, not trees, not gifts, not glitter, not fancy dinners. It is all about You Jesus! It is a shame to see that most people forget what this time of the year actually is all about. The greatest gift we can give this season is our lives to Him!
(I was so surprised when I saw the picture of the St Stephens Green Mall in Dublin, Ireland on this page-my home town)
Oh, man. I needed this. The past few weeks have been hard on us because it doesn’t “feel like Christmas”. It’s hot, we’re far away from home/family/friends, we won’t be going to parties or singing carols at church. But I’m brought to tears as I read what you wrote. This isn’t about the decorations (although a few small things here and there have helped soothe a little homesickness), but its about the birth of Christ, “the simplicity of the manger”. This is perfect. Heartbreaking. Healing. Freeing.
and ps- I hope I’m never “over Africa” either.
We are THAT family says
I love you, Katy Stone!
WOW. LOVE this post! LOVE it.
Thank you for sharing your heart. Thank you for verbalizing what I’ve been thinking and feeling. Trying to scale WAY back and focus on Jesus. Then everybody looks at you like you’re nuts.
But if we’re not supposed to conform to the world, I guess we need to get used to being looked at like we’re nuts, right?
We are THAT family says
I love that, Aimee, Nuts for Jesus!
Kelly D < :) says
OMG…this totally describes the way I have been feeling lately.
I have been enjoying the Christmas decorations others have up but have not been able to get motivated to get my own house decorated for the holidays.
I thought it was my Season Affective Disorder kicking in early but as I was reading your post it really started to make more sense that my trip to Haiti last April has alot to do with that lack of desire.
Thanks for posting this and have a VERY Merry CHRISTmas!!!
Kelly D < 🙂
Holley Gerth says
Thanks for always bringing our hearts back to what matters most, to WHO matters most. Love you, friend.
WOW thanks for this post, I’ve been feeling that way this year. Life seems so rush rush, there is always something and I miss my time with Jesus. So many distractions try to steal away our hearts being bent towards him not only at Christmas but all the time. This post is a good reminder to not let the distractions take over. Thank you!
Ida Mundell says
Love this post! This year we are “slowing down” by trimming all the excess and just getting back to the basics-Jesus and his birth.
We read/do an “advent time” every night and sing a worship/Christmas song everyday bringing the attention back to Jesus.
We do decorate humbly with the thought that we are decorating for Jesus’s birthday. (my girls are 4 and 1…and 18…so they like this idea!)
I was inspired by a friend to do a “handmade christmas” so all of the gifts we give (which is a VERY small amount…1 for each kid and some for a few friends) will be handmade by us. My husband is making the girls a big doll house and I am attempting to make the dolls.
We attend and/or host a “happy birthday Jesus” party where we go over the story of Jesus and why we really celebrate Christmas.
We write our sweet Edwin alot, sponsored through Compassion and focus more of GIVING than GETTING (How Jesus gave for us…we want to give to others…)etc..
I am traveling to Haiti the day after Christmas and I know I will come back wrecked. In a good way. Like you and Africa 🙂
Living the Balanced Life says
We have a much slower Christmas this year and I am so enjoying it! It is nice to not be sucked in to the craziness of the season.
Jeri @godsdreamsforme says
Slow flowing the holidays have really helped. 2010 has been that kind of a year for us. Every time I step out of it, even for a second, I get wiped out. I’m so thankful for His love and grace to keep me in His slow flow.
“commune with the King” – I’m breathing Him in right now. Thank You so much.
I think it’s really pretty strange…I’ve never felt more in tune with Advent and the anticipation of Christ’s birth during a Christmas season, and at the same time, have never felt so alone…I find my practices are aligning with my heart and yet, it’s tough to draw others in when your process has been coming for years and I have a blogging community of encouragers, that others have not entered…dear people I love…I feel the blank stares as I articulate what He has been doing in my heart…
Thankfully, my amazing husband is right with me…so, we are keeping it simple with gifts, have started the Jesse Tree and my family for sheer ‘big-ness’ is going very minimal…also, aside from He who is everything we need, we are preparing to move overseas and so I just want the presence of others, NO. STUFF. PLEASE.
I’ve been out a couple of times this season and I cry to see people straining to put meaning in stuff and hurrying and piling in to cover the deeper holes of dysfunction rooted in divorce, abuse, workaholic ism…not really knowing Him…
Nothing feels like Christmas and yet within me, it has never felt more like Christmas…does this make sense??
Be blessed all…praying His embrace wraps you warm and tight.
I agree. It has taken me years to process this, but our family is changing our celebration of Christmas and I feel FREE!
We have been phasing through this for the past few years….letting go of the secular and trying to hold on to the sacred. We quit gifts with extended family a few years ago and give to charities instead. This year we’ll do the same with immediate family. The tree went to the Goodwill this year (hadn’t been put up in at least 3 years) and we are trying to be more intentional about how we celebrate the birth of Christ, constantly trying to sort out what that means. During the past two years we were directly affected by the downturn in the economy, and have had to learn to live on less. I’ve heard it said before, but didn’t always believe it…..sometimes less is more. We’re finding that to be true. People won’t think it’s normal, but maybe that’s not what we’re called to be.
“It may not feel like Christmas. But maybe it’s not supposed to.”
… an unexpected but unassailable fact.
We have so much here. I have really not much at all – but I realize I have so much. “Stuff” almost always obscures the view of Our Lord. He doesn’t frantically bound about and wave his hands. But the world does, so it gets the attention. His voice isn’t over the top, and his words aren’t flashy. But the world’s voice is thunderous – and it has an excellent P.R. department. So its words get heard.
The manger was not a quiet place, but it was a simple place … and in the simple, that’s where I pay attention to His hushed voice – and can see his hands – YES THOSE HANDS – much more clearly.
Thank you for this.
I wish you a Merry “it’s not supposed to feel like that kind of Christmas” Christmas
You asked “How I keep it simple and keep the focus on Jesus?” …PRAYER, then Lots of coffee chats, one-on-one time, and intentionally listening to the precious acquaintances, family, friends, Jesus has placed in my life-…… and, PRAYER of Thanks afterwards. THEN Repeat….
Bonnie Gray | FaithBarista says
You call us remember Christmas with your words, Kristen — returning us to that place inside us where there is no tinsel, but a Savior. That is why you will always carry Africa with you, because you felt the Savior’s heart move in you, when you were there.
That’s totally where I am right now too. With all that is going on right now (turmoil at home, jumping through hoops elsewhere), it’s hard to feel joyous this year at this time. What I want to do above all right now, and I know some of you are with me in this, is just keep Jesus company (whether at Adoration [I’m Catholic] or elsewhere) in silence. I don’t want gifts I want peace at home and peace in the wider community. Is that too hard to ask? Apparently so, with all the toys and baubles wanting to grab our attention and ignoring the fact that this is in fact a celebration of Jesus’ birth. No one wants to admit that Jesus started it all and He didn’t intend for it to be this way.
Rachel Ramey says
“Are you over Africa yet?”
Seriously!?! What is wrong with people? What is wrong with the CHURCH? God forgive us for our hard hearts. 🙁
Kelly Ann says
Seriously. Thank you.
I’ve been so struggling with culture vs. the Bible. I don’t want to lie to my kids about Santa. Then I feel guilty: Am I depriving them of a happy childhood? WHAT??!!
God, receive all of our thoughts, all of our struggles with the world, as WORSHIP to YOU and only YOU this Christmas.
When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas :) « Furman Catholic Campus Ministry says
[…] This article was recommended to me by our friendly neighborhood CCM President, Melissa, and it’s an amazing article about what Christmas really means. We’ll be having Mass this Sunday for Gaudete Sunday, and then we’ll be home to celebrate Christmas. Anyways, I think this is a great article to remind us of what’s really important, Jesus 🙂 […]
I LOVE this! I am so tired of the more, more, more mentality.
Presents Under the Tree « Moments & Memories says
[…] joy. Even though we have a tree, a wreath, a nativity figurine, and some lights up, somehow, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. But I am so thankful that I can spend another Christmas Day with my […]
Dennis Teel says
these posts are rather old .and it’s july 2011 as i’m typing this,but i’ve been watching “christmas in july” on QVC and i love the holiday season, so i just have to leave a comment=while i agree with everyone that christmas is overly commercialised,the fact is that it has ALWAYS been that way no more,no less.it’s surprising to me that so many christians complain about it as though it’s something that’s just happened within the recent past.keep christ in mind during the holiday..period.my family and i buy for one another “within our means”.i admit that i might have to wait a few extra weeks til after christmas to myself something like ink cartridges and maybe some other non essential items that cost about the same,but it’s a sacrifice i make to buy gifts for those in my family./
i whole heartedly agree that christmas is(always was)overly commercialised,but at the same time ,there are those people who italicise the issue so heavily ,thusly robbing some people of their ‘joy’ of the holiday.
WARNING WILL ROBINSON>>>>
when I surf the internet during the holiday season i’m shocked to read so many posts from people in forums and blogs,that either profess their ‘hate’ for christmas or heavily bash it using the issuel of of commercialism.don’t let those people ‘steal your joy’ during the christmas season.I wish an early(4 to 5 months early) Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this.(that means you)!!