a girl is holding a cup of tea and sit beside the fireplace

It’s Christmas Already, But I’m Still Not Feeling It

One morning I schlepped over to a friend’s home. As a stay-at-home mum of three pre-schoolers, she feels limited in what she can offer the community. But my hat goes off to her: She invited an adult day programme to her home to sing carols, read the Christmas story from the Bible, and enjoy a spread of snacks.

Somewhere in the middle of the singing, I remembered that besides just wanting to love on the participants or go through the happy holiday motions, I wanted the carols to sink into me, too, to taste the reverence and joy as it went down.

But I also know that somewhere, a part of me resists this. I find myself avoiding Christmas for a handful of reasons—not the activities, but allowing the inside of me to truly engage; to worship, enjoy, meditate and be all there.

We are tired

To busy employees, students, parents, church personnel, or what have you, the holidays can feel like more bricks, less straw. You not only have to get everything done; it needs sprinkles, fairy lights, or curly ribbons on it.

This week, my husband has just returned from overseas. My parents are coming today! And together, we’ll attend the third concert of one of our kids.

So often I tumble into traditions—you might even call them expectations—as if on autopilot, dictating and rushing my schedule as I attempt to observe Christmas from the outside in.

What if, instead, I prayerfully approached God about which activities (or not!) would help me worship from the inside out? What if, for the sake of my soul, I tapped the brakes?

Because tiredness saps my presence with Him. I have no space—no room at the “inn” of my heart.

To enjoy Christmas from the heart, our hearts need margin—space to breathe, think, enjoy, and soak in the wonder of it all.

We are busy 

Christmas lists, Christmas cards, Christmas services, Christmas charity: all excellent uses of our time. But we get caught in the classic Mary and Martha jig, right? Jesus is in our living room, but we’re caught in the kitchen with all the prep, trying to do all the right things while our hearts whirl with anxiety (Luke 10:38-41).

I’ve just got to remind myself Mary chose what was better—her focus was solely on Jesus, and this is something I should be doing too.

We are disappointed

Sometimes it can feel easier to simply not let Christmas go that deep in your heart because the disappointment would just be too great.

Maybe you’re wondering if anyone will truly “see” you this Christmas, or if you’ll be camouflaged within all the noise and lights.

Maybe you’re hoping for loved ones to show up, but no one can make it, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without them. Or there’s a conflict nipping at the heels of your happiness.

Maybe you’re disappointed with God, with how He didn’t seem to come through for you. And numbing, “shielding” your heart—though it mutes all the happiness, too—seems easier than sorting through all those “feels”.

We are hurting 

I interact on a semi-regular basis with members of the wonderful GriefShare and DivorceCare groups, dedicated to helping people who have experienced a death or divorce in their life.

Who feels like celebrating when there’s a hole in your chest? When a stocking hangs slack on the mantel, or there’s a decidedly empty chair around the table?

The social expectation to be joyful and feel warm fuzzies only exacerbates a sense of grief and isolation.

Christmas happiness vs. Christmas joy

The ads, the movies, the lights: They’re designed for feelings of Christmas happiness. But Christmas joy is different.

As someone pointed out to me, consider this verse: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Happiness and joy are similar—but not interchangeable.

Christmas happiness is an emotion felt in the moment. When we don’t feel it, we feel numb. Alienated. Lonely.

But Christmas joy is an anchor of the soul. And I’m not talking about the Christmas “joy” the ads are peddling—“Giving someone an expensive gift = joy!”, or even the “joy” of Christmas cards, where families have to all look nice and smile at the same time. Those (honestly, sometimes fake) joys can flay open the numbness and emptiness we feel inside.

I’m talking about the joy the Holy Spirit brings with Him; the joy of Jesus lifting us from our shame and loving us completely.  When the rest of life is storm-tossed—like my friend, freshly grieving the loss of her toddler—joy remembers there is more than this place and this time. It settles in the gaps of my soul, reminding me that Jesus came because God cares enough not to leave me alone and broken.

Because He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

So, I can draw my questions and hard emotions (sadness, anger, fear, doubt) into this season with me, and engage with them with true hope rather than surface-level happiness.

Below are some ideas on how to engage with a heart two sizes too small:

Connect, for real

Maybe you could use a cup of coffee with a friend to let you know you don’t fade into the background with everyone. Perhaps they could just listen to your hurt.

Afraid of being a wet blanket? Here’s my take: I think people enjoy genuine connectedness far more than raising another glass of Christmas cheer. Despite the grins around you, no one enjoys a perfect life; everyone has their own backpack of troubles. You don’t have to be alone in your heartache.

The other night, weeping with a widowed friend in a coffee shop, I wasn’t lamenting her grief. Instead, I thought, “This is why Jesus came. And I’d rather have this than stand on the edge of my town’s Christmas parade.”

This can be how we serve. With the right heart, it brings us perspective and connectedness, reminding us of worlds beyond our own. It prepares our hearts for gratitude.

Say no to an unnecessary activity

What’s one activity that pulls you away from truly loving God and others, that feels more like forced Christmas romp than anything else? As hard as it is, try to say “no” to that activity, even if everyone else is doing it—you’d be so glad you did.

Have more of the sensory stuff that gets to your heart

Jesus brought spirit and body together, right? So consider what traditions are most meaningful to you. Make room for them.  Maybe like me, music worms its way into your heart. Or meditating near the Christmas tree lights, in the dark. Or lighting candles and brewing a cup of tea, conveying comfort and rest to your body.

Be intentional to read and reflect

Re-reading (or listening to) Biblical stories or prophecies can help you remember the hope that’s yours. I particularly like Isaiah 9:1-7, 11:2, 61:1-4; Micah 5:2; Luke 1:38; and Acts 10:38.


Perhaps you’re still not ready to let Christmas in; your heart still feels grief, even cynicism. Can I gently suggest that your emotions and body are trying to tell you something that’s worth listening to? Perhaps loss or burnout or someone’s terrible treatment of you is affecting your soul.

A genuine Christmas doesn’t always have to “feel merry”; it can even be a messy one—think of the God born in a barn, to a woman’s nakedness, with the smell of blood and cow manure. Rather than feeling like you must feel all the “joy” the world tells you to, maybe it’s time to listen to your soul—and allow Emmanuel, “God with us”, to be with you, right where you’re at, here on earth.

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

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