When Christmas does not feel Magical

As a child, Christmas to me was pure magic. There was nothing like opening a million packages and the anticipation and joy of Christmas. As an adult, childhood seems a utopia of abundant living. What happens when Christmas does not feel magical? and joy is hard to find?

when christmas does not feel magical

Top: my sister and me, Bottom: my sister, me, and my cousin, Christmas of 2nd grade

I grew up and lost the magic I found as a child. Much of the joy I’d remembered was centered on opening and receiving presents – things I’d waited all year to ask for and receive – many of which I no longer remember. It would be wrong for me to deny that this is a little of the reason Christmas began to seem less mysterious and wonderful to the adult version of me. Gone was the anticipation of something I’d waited all year to receive. Gone were things asked for and hope fulfilled. Adulthood meant the death of wonder, whimsy, and fun, and in it’s place was practicality in the form of cash, gift cards, and a pair of pants.

These feelings of longing proved that the thing Christmas most was to me was receiving gifts of toys, gadgets, and books. It was also about traditions and family. The loss of my dad, granny, and PaPa changed our traditions, and family celebrations halted or were no longer the same. The more I entered the adult world, the less I believed in the magic of Christmas. The less I believed in the magic, the more I sought the reason for the season – Jesus, a God turned baby-King and Savior.

What is more magical than a God who is all-knowing, all-present, and unbound by time placing Himself into the womb of a woman named Mary and wrapping Himself into the flesh of a baby? God becoming a man is the most magical thing I can imagine, and it is not a fairy tale – it really happened.

Every year, despite my best efforts, I find myself hating Christmas. It does not seem like the most wonderful time of the year. From the death of whimsy and tradition to the loss of family at the table plus the introduction of stress, responsibility, and the weight of life, I keep trying to recreate the joy of childhood by searching for thoughtful, meaningful, or fun gifts, which becomes a new burden and stress. I am not a wizard that can say a magic spell dispelling the magic of joy into wrapping paper or trees, but I secretly hope I am.

What I think I most need is the whimsy and wonder of a child – the child born in a manger in Bethlehem. Each Christmas He comes again, and I threaten to say, “no room here,” with my stress, busyness, and responsibility.


What would happen if I had the childish heart of Mary who simply said, “May it be to me as you have said?”

What if I noticed the light that appears brighter than all others and spent days seeking out the meaning of this light, like the wise magi of old?

What if, like the shepherds, I believed the angels declaration of great joy and began to look for Him in the simple, common, every day places – wrapped in cloths in a manger among the animals? What if I too could find him in the unlikely places of my common life? What if I were to bring praise instead of stress and busyness as my offering?

That becomes the problem – the idea that I should be happy and holy and focused on nothing but the joy of Christmas when in reality my heart is overwhelmed and empty. What does it look like to bring stress and busyness as my offering to the baby Jesus? What if, like the little drummer boy, I bring my poverty? I want to bring something greater like gold, incense, or myrrh, but what if instead of simply believing and bringing praise, I need the help of the manger-baby who knows what it is like to be empty, born among animals? What place do those who struggle to believe have in the Christmas story?

Maybe some of the magic of Christmas is that He accepts my weak and empty gifts and turns them into gold and praise upon my lips? Is this not the God we hope to worship – the God who brings beauty from ashes?

But perhaps there is some work for me to do too. I don’t often marvel in the miracle of the ordinary. I want my life to be full of grandeur and pomp and circumstance, so I miss the joy, deep abiding joy of the miracle and magic of God coming to me, coming to you.

Christmas treeWhen we got out the Christmas tree this year, my children began to decorate it. Watching the kids work happily made my heart swell with joy and happiness. Those are the moments that if I hurry, I miss.

I used to have a life philosophy, even as a Christian, that life sucked. It felt like all of life was out to get me. I was pessimistic and my hope was dead. I look around, and I see others who feel that way too. What if we were to open our heart each day with room for Him? Would we not become Abraham stars shining like that special star in Bethlehem guiding others to the baby Jesus over and over again? What glorious magic is this? God in flesh, God in man, God dwelling among us every day – eternity already here.

Daily allowing room for Jesus resurrects my hope. Even when Christmas gets busy, stressful, and threatens to snuff my light out, I return to the wonder of a God in babe and my heart wells up with praise, overflows with joy. Perhaps I don’t hate Christmas after all – only the lack of abundant living masquerading as more stuff.

The inn in my heart is open – sweet baby Jesus – won’t you fill it with joy?

Unwrapping Christmas

Blessed are the Chaos Calmers


“Blessed are the chaos calmers for they will be the children of God.”

As a mom, I have seen my kids do a lot of things. They have broken my heart a few times in only 9 short years. Sometimes they forget I am a person, but sometimes, I have forgotten that they are people too. I forget to notice the things that are important to them. We push and pick at one another’s soft spots, until hurt oozes out and anger is tossed around or tears flow. I can get so caught up in the doing of motherhood that I forget to be about the being of a mom too. You know the mom that knows and sees the tender, hurting ache.

Sometimes, when neglected even the tiniest amount, children act out. They do things they know they should not because they need attention. In those moments, a child needs discipline, yes, but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is a gentle hug, a holding until the weeping stops, or the thrashing softens, until they know they are truly seen and that they are not alone in whatever the ache may be. In the moment of hurt, it does no good for me to pick a side – to tell them they are wrong or even to agree that they are right. Negative words alienate, and alienation is not what they need. They need healing. They need peace. They need someone to help them calm the chaos beating within so they can be still, be known, and be able to gain control.

This year God has been teaching me about hospitality. I’ve always known I am not so good at it. My heart is one hundred times bigger in the closet at home than anywhere else. Intention without action is meaningless. I ask myself, “If love is not acted upon, is it really love?” or just a grand idea? a novel concept.

When I went to Allume in October, the theme was hospitality. I don’t know that the world needs hospitality now more than ever though that would be the popular thing to say. But the world needs love – love reaching down and out, and over and beyond, spreading out, near and far and wide until love has covered the earth in the name of Jesus. What if each and every one of us are all just longing for home?

We like to say that the United States has turned its back on God and Jesus and that our world is going straight to hell. Sometimes I say it too. When we say these things we proclaim that love has not prevailed.  But that’s not true – the Word of God says that LOVE never fails. Love prevails.

What has happened is that we have been given a gift of sight – a gift to see how we have not clung to the Truth. We see that our nation is not united in thought, in body as a “Christian” nation, or in the spirit of self-evident truths of equality. Why is this a gift?

When I thought I was a good girl, I did not know my need of the Savior – I thought my striving was enough. When I knew the depths of who I truly was and how lost in sin I could be, I knew my need, and I could truly know I am poor in spirit and thus inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Over the last few years as I’ve blogged and seen controversies develop, I see a nation that needs the Lord, that needs the tenderness that only He can give. He’s wrapped His arms, His love, His presence, and His very nature and being in me, and you if you too believe. He dwells among us, and This. Is. Monumental. We can be Jesus to the hurting who need Him so. Like those in Ferguson.

But not only are we Jesus, Jesus is every one we meet. This, too, is important to remember. If we held each person in the same esteem as we hold our beloved Savior, He would reign here on earth indeed. Whatever we do (or say) to those we think the least, we do to Him. My least of these is not the same as your idea of the least of these. Those you tend to discredit and clash and war internally with – that right there is where you need to see your “least of these.”


You see hurting people hurt others. They don’t care if they are right or wrong or about anything else but relieving the pain. We are not talking about children acting out from a tiny amount of neglect but generations of frustration. What if you were born into a people group who often does not stand up for marriage and fatherhood, that kills one another, that struggles to find its identity apart from slavery, and racism, and discrimination? and every time your son went out you worried about what kind of trouble he would find himself in? whether he was doing the right thing or whether or not somebody acted out of fear against him or not? What if your skin did not afford you the luxury of choice? What if, instead, it bound you to a life of poverty, of hatred, of loss?

I am not black, and so I truly only speculate here as I listen and watch.

Step with me though back into time, into the days when Jesus walked in his own skin and  not in mine and yours. Those were the days when if a man divorced a woman, he made her an adulterer, and not just Jesus calling women adulterers. No, a woman would be cast out onto the streets left to fend for herself by prostitution or grappling to find a new husband via adultery. To divorce a woman was to impoverish her, to take away every thing that made her human.

How many times do we unknowingly cripple and impoverish others when they are down? It should be the very thing we dare not do.

There is no side I want to take here. I am simply deeply sad. Our nation continues to pull itself apart, and we cannot continue to speak condescendingly to one another in the matter of righteousness – it just keeps on the cycle of abuse and distrust and hatred and fear.

We Jesus followers are meant to be peace makers. We are meant to be the ones who bring unity not division. Our voices are sacred, and we must use them as such. It is true that as we reach out to those lashing out we will experience pain, we might get hurt, we might even be crucified. My kids almost always struggle before the calm, before they accept the hug they want and need.

What if love was not kept in the closet or fed as a novel idea? what it was acted upon?  What if we did not spit on Jesus with venomous words, but took up His cross and helped the world to heal? What if we were the chaos calmers marching to the beat of peace? What if hospitality stopped being about loving a stranger and simply loving Jesus?

Would we all not find our home – thy kingdom come on earth?


P.S. I took those photos last year in downtown Birmingham. I don’t know who wrote those hopes and dreams, but they appeared to be written by city youth.

Shared with Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeforyouHeart and Meredith Bernards’s Woman2Woman


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