Dec 11, 2020 08:00am
When the Holidays Mean Sadness Instead of Joy

As I sit to write this, we have just experienced the first snowfall of the season in our area. Today we completed our Christmas decorating for this year. And I pulled out my favorite Christmas music, which I will listen to several hundred times this month.

After an extremely difficult year, it’s beginning to feel like Christmas and that’s a good thing.


Faced with the realities of 2020, what exactly is Christmas supposed to feel like? Is there something wrong with those of us that don’t really feel the Christmas spirit (whatever that feels like)? Is it insensitive for us to be merry and bright when there are those in our communities suffering the loss and devastation brought about by this pandemic?

In a totally “un-normal” year, are the emotions that we are feeling normal?

Even in the best of times, Christmas is an emotional time of year. Every emotion that we face somehow gets magnified during the holidays.

Sometimes, our sense of joy and celebration kicks into overdrive. Other times a sense of sadness and even depression sets in.

Our love of family and community may seem especially strong during the season for some. For others, there may be a sense of loss or bitterness that is especially poignant at this time of year

Regardless of what the emotion is, it just seems to play out bigger in our lives at Christmas than at other times.

And to one degree or another, those emotions seem to place us in one of three categories:


It seems that some of us simply ENDURE Christmas.

The emotional, physical, and financial stress and strain of the holiday push us to the limit. We just want to get it over with. For whatever reason, we don’t enjoy it. In fact, we really struggle at this time of year. It may bring back painful memories from our past. Family hurts and conflicts that we thought we had buried somehow get resurrected. And it seems that there is no escape.

We often go through the season overcommitted, overtired, overspent, and overwhelmed.

And now this year, we are depressed about the loss of some of the things that are important to us.

And nobody understands.


Others of us seem to just EXIST through the season. 

We don’t get overly stressed by it all because we just don’t see what the big deal is. We don’t dislike the season, but it is just another day to us. We simply go through the motions of the holiday. We watch others with a sense of bewilderment as they pursue the drama of the season. It is a nice time of the year, but it’s no big deal.

And in a year where it seems that all we have done is exist, why would Christmas be any different?

We’re just glad to see 2020 finally coming to an end.


Then there are those of us who really, really seem to ENJOY Christmas.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year for us in this group. On December 26, we start planning for next year. We dream about it all year and it is over way too quickly for us. There is nothing about Christmas that we are not ecstatic about.

And after the year that we have had, we love this one even more.

And we simply can’t understand those endurers and existers.


So how should we feel during the Christmas season? What is normal?

The truth is that there is no normal. Not this year or any other year.

We all have different backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and circumstances that impact our way of looking at Christmas. But each of us also has a common truth found in three phrases in one sentence spoken by an angel on that first Christmas night:

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

1. Good news

The good news is that a Savior has been born. A Savior that can do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

2. Great joy

The great joy is knowing that we are made completely righteous with God by our faith in that Savior. The joyous gifts of hope, help, and heaven are available to each of us and they are the most priceless, useful, and lasting gifts that we will ever be given.

3. For all the people

This good news of great joy is available for all the people. There are no qualifiers or small print. There are no excluded demographics. These gifts are available to the enjoyers, the existers, and the endurers alike – all of the people.


The story of the baby in the manger becomes the story of a Savior on the cross and that story demands a decision. A decision about that Savior on the cross.

The uncomfortable truth is that the celebration of Christmas demands a decision about Christ.

So, what’s your Christmas decision?

Before we close, let’s get back to our earlier question: “How should we feel during Christmas?” I can’t answer that question. I don’t have a formula for helping you work through the emotions of the season.

My best suggestion would be to honestly present your emotions to God in prayer- the good, the bad, and the ugly. He is willing and able to help you work through all of those. He has proven that to me many times. And He understands and cares about your emotions regardless of what they are.

Having said that, there is one emotion that I think is important and appropriate for all of us. It is the emotion exhibited by the shepherds on that first Christmas.

It is the emotion of complete awe.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

That should inspire complete awe in all of us.

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