when Christmas doesn’t match the picture

I am writing this today for those of you whose Christmas season isn’t looking so festive. You’re struggling perhaps. Or your finances are a mess. Or a loved one is sick. Or a child is rebelling. Or, or, or, you know. Life isn’t always that perfect picture .

And Christmas time?

Well, sometimes Christmas time hurts and looks nothing like we think it should look.

Know that right now, as I write these words, that I am praying for you as you sit behind your screen and read my words. You are not alone.

I am writing to you because I’ve experienced those kinds of Christmases. Maybe my story is different, but I’ve been there in my own way. In those times when I’d push my cart through Target envious of those with carts bursting over the top while I added pennies in my head. I’ve sat in a hospital waiting room while my husband recovers from cancer surgery two floors above me. I’ve watched my baby sick with no explanation of why. That’s part of my story during Christmas. And those kinds of years, well, they’re hard. You kind of feel alone watching as everyone else moves joyfully around you.

I wish I could take away the hard stuff, make it better, fix it. But, I can’t. But, what I can do is tell you just a little bit of what I did during those hard years and pray that for a moment your heart can rest and feel a bit of His peace.

So, my words to you are to stop looking at all the stuff that the world tells us to have at Christmas. At the cookies, and presents, and decorations, and bows, and glitter, and glitz, and caroling, and cards, and parades, and pictures, and parties, and stockings, and candy, and all that stuff. For this time, this season in your life, look only at the baby in Luke 2.

The baby Jesus who humbled himself and was born in a stable.

For you.

Right now.

In your life no matter how messy it may be.

Look only at Jesus. 

I remember having to intentionally turn my eyes from the world’s idea of Christmas and stilling myself to rest in Jesus. Not stuff. Not glitter. Just Jesus. My eight year year old Brennan was only two then and he would pray at night. His prayer was simply – Jesus, Jesus,  Jesus. I learned from him. So when my heart ached or I was scared or envious or sad or anxious or afraid I’d pray – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Jesus is Christmas.

The circumstances in life are not.

My prayer for you, wherever you are, is that the peace of Jesus fills your heart this Christmas and that you may find His joy. You are loved. And you are prayed for.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger… Luke 2:6-7a

17 Responses to when Christmas doesn’t match the picture
  1. Barbie
    December 8, 2011 | 1:09 am

    Okay my friend, I read this post fighting back the tears. How did you know my heart? I have been trying hard to keep Jesus my sole focus, but it’s hard. I go to the mall to pick up gifts here and there and find myself complaining that I cannot give more to my children. I must look to Jesus and realize we are rich beyond measure. He’s already given us the most perfect gift! Thank you for this beautiful post.

    • rachel
      December 8, 2011 | 1:38 pm

      Thank you. Sometimes I think that this season is so hard and we just need those reminders to slow down and look at the real important.
      Love you, my friend.

  2. Maggie Hogan
    December 8, 2011 | 7:50 am

    Amen sister! This is on my heart to share with hurting moms/women too. I know it is a hard time for so many! I love your little boy’s prayer. May it always be mine as well.

  3. Stacey
    December 8, 2011 | 7:59 am

    Look only at Jesus….

    Oh Rachel- that is beautiful! Love this encouraging post!

  4. Kristi
    December 8, 2011 | 9:52 am

    You know, even if we aren’t struggling this particular Christmas, this post still touches deep at the heart. Don’t we all struggle deep down to make Christmas about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the midst of all the commercial Christmas. How could we possibly need anything more? Thank you and may Jesus truly be at the heart of your Christmas too! Praying fervently for all those who are in a struggle this season. Blessings.

  5. Laura Rath
    December 8, 2011 | 10:01 am

    Thank you Rachel, this is really what I needed to read this morning. Like you said, the reasons may be different for each of us, but feelings like worry, regret, and being alone affect so many of us. Your son’s prayer touched me. Just moments ago I was praying and couldn’t form words. Then I read your son’s prayer and I prayed it. And it made me think of Romans 8:26-27.

    Thank you for reminding me of the peace of Jesus in this season.

    In Christ,

    • rachel
      December 8, 2011 | 1:40 pm

      There are so many times when I can’t figure out the prayer — and I just pray the name of Jesus — just like Brennan did. Somehow, those prayers, those prayers where my words are uncluttered are the perfect prayers.

      God’s blessings to you.

  6. Coby
    December 8, 2011 | 10:50 am

    This was exactly what I needed to her today. “Look only at the baby in Luke 2…Just Jesus.” Amidst insecurities about finances right now and not measuring up to extended family expectations of us during the holidays…this is the perfect reminder – just to rest in Jesus.

  7. Kimberly
    December 8, 2011 | 1:32 pm

    Jesus is Christmas. The circumstances in life are not. Love this reminder.

    A beautiful and tremendously encouraging post!

    • rachel
      December 8, 2011 | 1:40 pm

      Thank you, Kimberly. Blessed by your kinds words.


  8. Deb
    December 8, 2011 | 3:09 pm

    Rachel, This is beautifully written. Thank you for touching us with the point of Christmas. It is so easy to lose our focus. Blessings!

    • rachel
      December 9, 2011 | 8:31 am

      Thank you, Deb. Blessings on you and your Christmas.

  9. Kathryn
    December 8, 2011 | 4:46 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes, because this Christmas my husband is deployed. I have been having such a hard time with everything going around me knowing that my husband won’t be here. We didn’t even deocorate or put a tree up, because we are traveling to stay with family very soon. My 17 month old’s Christmas consisted of opening Christmas presents while my husband watched on Skype today. (we needed to open them before we left)Not exactly the ideal Christmas, but it works. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, pointing us to Christ.

    • rachel
      December 9, 2011 | 8:26 am

      Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing some of your story. I will be praying for you and that you may experience joy and His peace in the midst of this year.

      God’s blessings to you.


  10. JBennett
    December 8, 2011 | 8:53 pm

    This is exactly where I am this season. As hard as I try to focus on my Savior, this Christmas seems so lonely and empty. I am a mother of 6…my husband made some bad choices and is currently incarcerated. I try to remind myself of all God’s blessings…my children are all healthy, our home, my career…just seems like the stress from everything drowns out the joy and laughter of the baby Jesus.

    • rachel
      December 9, 2011 | 8:34 am

      I don’t know your first name, but I want you to know first, that I am sorry. It is so hard and lonely to be in difficult places in life, especially at Christmas time. I will pray for you, and I will pray for your children, and I will pray that this Christmas that you can rest — if just for a bit, and that you are given moments of peace.


  11. Dawn
    December 9, 2011 | 12:47 am

    YES. This. This year. Amen.