I can only tell my story: HOPE through the hollowness of the holidays


Mom, you just always seem so sad at Christmas.

So much for the ole’ poker face of cheer. Despite my best efforts every year I just don’t feel Christmas. Each year I tell myself to put the Grinch aside. I try to accept every Christmas party invitation and host at least one of my own. I try to have every surface inside and out covered in lights, ribbons, and holiday prettifulness. I do my best in the kitchen or at least buy the best of someone else’s kitchen to make sure there are plenty of sweets and savories. I attempt to start buying presents in October. I line up a rack in my closet with festive clothes and accessories. We plan out our weekends to have at least one holiday family activity a week such as Journey to Bethlehem at my church or watching White Christmas at our local community college. 

I have to admit I don’t know people as well as I thought to buy them the perfect gift. And even then, two gifts are MIA that I bought earlier in the fall because I seem to better at hiding presents than buying presents. Most of the Christmas movies I pre-recorded are apparently on a channel we don’t subscribe to. I never found where I put our Buddy the Elf and everyday Afig asks when our Elf is coming. When I went to buy one they only had a girl and the other stores were sold out. The Christmas crafts are still piled in a corner incomplete. I’ve burnt more Christmas cookies than decorated. The ornaments are falling off the tree because it’s been watered one time and the downstairs decorations are still in a box in some store because I still haven’t bought them. I’m sitting next to a pile of unmailed Christmas cards. We’re two and five on our Advent devotionals. We had to cancel our Christmas party because of weather and other situations out of our control. It’s Christmas Eve and some of my closest friends will have to wait on their Christmas presents because I haven’t bought them or haven’t finished making them. 

My heart breaks when I hear my kids say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas because we haven’t had all the hype we usually have.”

I get agitated and irritated because I tried. I really tried to create an environment of anticipation, of family memories, of tradition but the reality is not what I had envisioned. This is really the only time of the year I wished I was June Cleaver/Martha Stewart/Jeannie/Mrs. Clause and it is the time of the year that reveals the most I don’t have anything together at all. The holidays leave me feeling like a complete failure, my family is walking on eggshells around me and for what?

Maybe your hollowness doesn’t come from unrealistic perfectionism but from lack of family cohesiveness, money pressure, or isolation. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that we’re both focusing on outside mores rather than finding our own definition of the Christmas spirit.

I love the story of the Polar Express. The little boy in the story was chosen by Santa to receive the fist present of Christmas. He knew he could ask for anything at all but what he wanted was a silver bell off of Santa’s sleigh. He wanted one small item that keep that childlike wonder of the Christmas spirit alive. 

The HOPE I would share with you is one I’m still learning myself. When you are seeking just an ounce of hope the entire Christmas season is overwhelming and oppressive. However like the boy in the Polar Express instead of trying to gather up all the possibilities of Christmas I encourage you just to find one Christmas memory, or ornament, or tradition, or poem, or scripture or song that is meaningful to you. I know for myself that I try to fill the emptiness I feel with lots and lots of stuff but the end result is I end of up feeling more and more hollow.

My silver bell, my one thing I’m focusing on today is the song “O, Holy Night.” It moves my spirit in a way that is virtually indescribable. When every other Christmas tradition feels like one unending Christmas Check Off List this one song centers me and gives me hope and clear perspective. I’ll go through the motions of last minute Christmas wrapping, cooking, baking etc but this song will be running through my mind. If you are feeling hopeless and hollow today allow yourself to return to a time with Santa was real, Baby Jesus was the focus, and your only worry was waking up early on Christmas morning. 

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