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What We’re Missing About the Real Christmas Story

I have a secret. I don’t love holidays—any of them, actually. I don’t even love… Christmas.

I don’t share this often as the outrage it creates is only topped by my equal disdain for the State Fair (a cardinal sin in Minnesota).

I know what I’m supposed to feel this time of year: wonder, magic, inclusion, excitement, hope, joy, peace, and a never-ending sugar rush.

I know what I’m supposed to do this time of year: sprint around like a maniac, prepare, shop, wrap, scramble, stress, cook, bake, drink, sing, rip a Tickle-Me-Elmo out of someone’s hands at Wal-Mart whilst punching them in the face and—of the most importance—explode with around-the-clock merriment like Santa’s over-caffeinated PR rep.

via GIPHY

But, despite this culturally prescribed norm for the perfect Christmas season, it’s never really worked for me.

Am I alone? Am I the only one who annually identifies with Cindy Lou Who, perpetually asking the universe, “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you?”

It seems the “Christian” thing to do in this predicament is to strive harder.

We’re told to go buy a garland-decorated devotional written by a refined Christian celebrity so that we can slave daily to perfectly prepare our hearts and minds to receive the most precious gift we didn’t deserve (after we finish dressing and hiding the Elf on the Shelf for the 23rd time, obviously).

If we want to truly enjoy Christmas we have to earn it.



The implied message is this: if you feel empty or disconnected on December 25th it’s because you didn’t do enough to be worthy of your place in this polished and magical story.

Work. Strive. Produce. Run on the hamster-wheel like a maniac until you collapse on December 26th with Post-Chrismatic Stress Disorder. That, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.

Sorry Church, I’ve followed your advice year after year while never achieving the mountain-top holiday season of boundless joy as promised. My Christmas story never mirrors the perfect nativity fairy tale being offered.

You know the story, we’ve all heard it a million times. Here are the Cliff Notes:

  • There, in a manger, lies the perfect newborn Gerber Messiah who miraculously has no physical signs from the trauma of exiting the birth canal. He has no redness or splotches, no crying or latching issues… just blue-eyed, blonde haired perfection incarnate.
  • The virgin Mary glows as if posing for the cover of Vogue whilst displaying a Marilyn Monroe million-dollar smile since clearly she did not experience the excruciating labor pains, messy afterbirth or the unmentionable post-birth p word… *whispers* placenta.
  • Joseph, the strong silent type, is definitely not terrified about anything like his wife (the virgin) giving birth, the astronomically high odds of his new wife dying during said birth, and, oh yeah, the fact the HE JUST BECAME A “DAD” (quotes pending a DNA test).
  • Surrounding this calm and perfect new family is a group of animated livestock who smell of gingerbread lattes and definitely not like excrement that fountains out of them every hour on the hour.

In this story, there are no signs of fear or actual birth. No blood or sweat or tears. No, no, no, no, no. That stuff is yucky and there is nothing uncomfortable, painful or YUCKY about Christmas. Got it?

For much of the past few years I’ve been writing about why the Church has lost its relevance in today’s culture and, despite being screamed at and cold shouldered, I still have a lot of quiet ideas. But the more I listen, the more I think a lot of it boils down to this: we’re telling the wrong the stories.

We change the bible to fit our consumerist world-view.



We tell polished, commercialized, Hallmark versions of biblical events that can easily be molded into an army of plastic light-up nativity statues ready to serve as the first line of defense during the hundred-year “War on Christmas.”

We prescribe cultural norms to this holiday—norms of achieving, working, arguing and distracting—instead of the biblical truths of resting, breathing, simplifying, and connecting.

In a world that rarely feels safe or quiet, we’ve whitewashed the Christmas story to shield ourselves from the realities of life. We’ve turned Christmas into an escape rather than entering into the gritty, painful, love-filled event it is, the event that changed the entire trajectory of human history.

The true story of Christmas didn’t happen apart from sexual assault, natural disasters, or mass murders; the son of God came here to be with us in the hurt and the wafting stench of manure.

The true Christmas story is not one of perfection, but rather one of labor pains and blood, looming genocides and hope, yes, hope in the unlikeliest of places.

So if your December doesn’t feel Disney World magical, perhaps you’re not actually missing out on anything at all. Maybe it’s time we all stop endulging in the nostalgia of our own revisionist history and instead, enter into the reality of this vulnerable and delicate story together.

Blessings and love to all of you my friends,

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About Sam

in love with all things Jesus, music, adventure, writing, teaching, laughter, running, friendship. Founder of recklesslyalive.com.

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13 comments

  1. No, you’re not alone. Regarding everything you said about holidays, I’m right there with you. What a beautiful, powerful post. You said it so well. Yes to resting, breathing, simplifying, and connecting. And yes to true hope that still shows up in unexpected moments in the unlikeliest of places.

  2. Just the reminder I needed today!

  3. hahah it’s so true People never like when i respond to their “don’t you just love Christmas?” question when i say “no actually it’s the most stressful time of year. I love things about the commercialized Christmas. I like pretty lights, seeing my family, eating good food, and well hallmark movies and hot chocolate. If you think NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH CHRISTMAS!! I hate travelling (which we always have to do), I hate spending money on things no one is really going to remember i bought them in a year, I hate spending my hard earned vacation hours filled with messing up my house and not being in it, when i am and not taking any relax time for my family. I hate shopping ….like in general. And again none of this has anything to do with actual Christmas. it’s so lost in our world. It’s so stressful to try and live up to the fake ideals of the holiday season. Jesus would want time to spend quality time with my family loving them with my presence not my presents. He would want us to not give of things but of spirit. your so right with this post. I stand behind you 100%

  4. Amen! Well said, Sam.

  5. This is excellent. All very true. We really need to stop commercializing Christmas. Thank you for speaking so boldly and honestly.

  6. I don’t want anyone to think I’m bashing on them, I celebrated christmas up until 2015 before I knew the truth about it myself.
    I encourage anyone who wants to, to listen to these two short videos:

    Q&A: Is Christmas Pagan?

    https://youtu.be/Dvdd-buIoGY

    Q&A: What do you say to someone who uses christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth?

    https://youtu.be/5YTlyFVkB3o

  7. That’s so good to read. I’ve been getting bolder each year with my response to “Don’t you just love Christmas?” – “Actually , no, I don’t.” People tend to laugh and think I’m being ironic or something. But the truth is, it makes me more and more stressed and anxious each year Just thinking of the planning, shopping, cleaning, entertaining, organising…it literally brings me to tears, and I have to fight the feeling to run away. I don’t want to do it any more. It has nothing to do with what I want Christmas to feel like, to mean, to me. I don’t want to eat like it’s my last meal on Earth. I don’t want to entertain anyone. I want a time of quiet contemplation, of real headspace to think about what this could mean to me. I want to find my faith, because it’s really fuzzy and distant right now, and I feel like a fake, as I help organise our church nativity play. I want some peace and quiet and to feel like, for once, someone is looking after me for a change, and not that everyone’s Christmas depends on whether I get it right or not. Christmas is hard, and I refuse to feel guilty for saying this out loud any more. Thank you, Sam, for the support you’re not even aware you’re giving to so many of us.

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