There have been moments in my life where I felt a lot of positive emotions about Christmas. There’s just this sense of magic that Christmas feels like. It feels elegant and rich, and makes you want to attend fancy Christmas parties, and yet makes you want to stay home and make all the sugar cookies. You feel some type of expectant to know what’s under the tree and yet, giddy because you know what you’re giving to other people. It can feel joyful and contagious. And in Christmas moments past, it felt really fun. But I don’t necessarily feel like that at the moment. Christmas doesn’t feel like that at the moment.
And what I know from conversations with people in my local church, is that most of you aren’t feeling up to the Christmas spirit either. Most of you are actually walking into Christmas with immense grief from struggling through the uncharted waters of losing a parent. Most of you are actually still navigating how years of a pandemic has jaded you in ways you’re maybe just now coming to know. Most of you are walking into Christmas feeling really hurt by someone you love. Most of you are still processing what it looks like to have vastly different political opinions with your neighbor and to love them anyway. Most of you still feel a lot of shame about how you did or didn’t handle the pandemic. Most of you haven’t talked to Jesus in a really long time. Most of you got thrown back into life and you didn’t have time to think through how the past few years have impacted your mental health. Most of you are carrying a lot of guilt for something you’ve been hiding and you just feel like you can’t be around all the people you love and hide it anymore. Most of you have a dream God’s planted in your heart and you just don’t know if God will ever let you see it come to fruition. Most of you feel a lot of pressure to make Christmas feel and look perfect, so much so that you’re running around like a crazy person today hoping you can pull all the things off. and then there’s others of you who aren’t running around to do all the things, because you don’t feel like doing anything and you’ve actually given up on it altogether. Most of you don’t feel like Christmas this year and you feel really guilty about it. And me too.
Those are really raw and real things and I need you to know that Jesus isn’t asking you to step into Christmas and feel something you aren’t. I need you to know that he draws close to the brokenhearted and that he isn’t naive to the human experience of emotion. He doesn’t need you to put on a brave face and do it anyway, when everything seems to be falling apart. And can I share something with you that I’ve been learning this Christmas season? I’ve put so much pressure on FEELING Christmas– the lights, the fresh pine smell, the candy canes, the mall Santa. and what I’ve come to know is that when I say I’m not “feeling” Christmas, it actually has nothing to do with Christmas at all.
See so many of us are walking into Christmas feeling raw and heavy and we feel a lot of shame for not feeling joyful and expectant for baby Jesus in a manger. I’m not feeling Christmas, and what I mean by that is I’m not so into the Christmas tree lights, peppermint shakes, and Hallmark movies this year. I don’t FEEL like that type of Christmas. And I think maybe we have attached feelings to Christmas that are fleeting. All the fluff of Christmas fades and at some point, life just gets to be too much for the holly and jolly commercialized Christmas to carry. Maybe it’s not that you don’t feel joyful and expectant for baby Jesus in a manger, maybe it’s just that Christmas isn’t fleeting anymore and you don’t “feel” like department store shopping and Christmas caroling.
And maybe this year– you actually do FEEL like Christmas, you’ve just placed “feeling” in the wrong place. I FEEL like Christmas more than ever. And I NEED baby Jesus in the manger to come. I need him. I’m the most expectant for him. I want to know him. Because I, we, have walked through some really raw years together, and we need more hope.
We’re people of hope and we get to choose this Christmas– we can show up to Christmas feeling really empty and heavy, and not into the whole Christmas dinner with family thing. OR we can show up hopeful– knowing that we’re walking through some difficult waters, but we’re not going to attach feelings to a fleeting Christmas. We’re going to show up broken and sad, and we’re going to show up seemingly unprepared with DIY gifts and we’re going to stop the pressure with all of the dining table decor. And we’re just gonna show up. Because we’re hopeful and our only longing, our only need this Christmas is for Jesus to draw near to us, to show mercy to us, to comfort us, and to really be all that he says he is.
That’s really all we want this Christmas, isn’t it? See we can feel not so much like cultural Christmas, and yet live in the tension that God is coming to be with us in the middle of raw and real and hard. We can stop feeling so guilty for not having it together and not wanting to attend all of the holiday parties. We can lean in. We can show up. We can make the hope of the coming of baby Jesus what really feels like Christmas this year.
I see you, friend. and I know that if you resonate with this, God’s near to you. Merry Christmas to you and your family. May there be great celebration and loud ruckus made about the coming of the Messiah.
With love, Suz