For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT)
For some, the holidays can be a time of anguish and pain. Missing family members no longer with us, hearts bearing the marks of infertility, financial problems, and so on. All this and more can hamper the supposed joy of the season that we’re “supposed” to feel.
Thank goodness for these verses in Ecclesiastes, and for our old friend Charlie Brown. They both show us that there’s room in the holidays for emotions besides joy.
Remember in the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas when sweet Charlie confesses to his friend, Linus, that he just isn’t feeling the Christmas spirit?
Charlie thoughtfully says, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”
Or how about when he visits his mailbox, finding it empty again? Charlie says, “Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”
We can all relate to our old pal Charlie, and we can all find a piece of ourselves in his story. We can have high expectations of our holiday feelings thinking, “It’s Christmas! We are supposed to be rejoicing and feeling all the warm fuzzies! We are supposed to set the tone for joy!”
But sometimes we simply aren’t able to do this. There is no guilt in feeling your very real, very valid emotions.
There is a time for all of them.
As those verses in Scripture say, there is a time for each and every emotion we experience and feel. Often some of the feelings listed in these verses crop up two at a time. Sometimes they take turns or trade off, one for the other. And instead of burying them, these passages encourage us to feel it all — to lean right into the pain if need be. These verses validate and make space for it all.
God welcomes our honesty. He wants us to bring Him the nitty-gritty of our feelings, the raw emotions we often suppress, because He sees us. God sees the pain and fears you’ve been hanging on to, and He beckons welcome.
There is no “supposed to.” There is only God, and He invites your all, right into the Christmas season.
God, You know my struggle. You know my pain. I want to be happy, but Lord, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. So I bring it all to You. I place this pain, this unknown and confusion, in Your hands, and I ask for Your healing to be bigger than my despair. I love You, and I trust You with this. Amen.
What emotions are you harboring this year? Can you bring them to the Lord?
A Moment of Christmas: 25 December Devotions for Moms by (in)courage contributor Anna E. Rendell will help you prepare your heart for Christmas with twenty-five days of devotions and Scripture readings, reflection questions, and extra goodies — recipes, inspiring quotes, and time-saving tips. Toss this book into your diaper bag or leave it on your kitchen counter, and let your heart be encouraged in the cracks of your day. As you prepare your heart for Christmas by reading through these pages, you’ll be inspired to drop the pursuit of perfection and chase holy.
We want to help you welcome the holiday season by giving away TWO copies!
Leave a comment about one of your favorite Advent or Christmas traditions, and you’ll be entered to win one of two copies of A Moment of Christmas!
Giveaway ends 11/13 at 11:59pm CST and is open to US addresses only.
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Carmen Becker says
Tradition is baking homemade cut out cookies when possible with my kids, now grandkids and the friends and neighbors around at the time. I’m totally excited as this year I found a “heart in hand” cookie cutter. We used it last week for baptism cookies. (Along with a cross cookie cutter. It’s awesome … I’m reminded to have a heart like a child. Inviting, hope, love, anticipation, friendships, and total unconditional ❤️ love like a child. I’ll probably purchase a dozen “heart in hand cutters” to share with friends this season. God bless you as he does daily for our family.
Thank you for this post, it reminds us that God welcomes us to come to him, however we are feeling. As my children have grown and left home our traditions have changed some, but being able to prepare a Christmas meal for the whole extended family brings great joy to my heart. As I come out of quarantine today, one thing this year has taught me is to hold loosely my plans and to be flexible to God’s will and timing. I think this would be a wonderful book for the holidays!
Mallory Slone says
This devotional was much needed right now! I am looking forward to Christmas, but there are always so many emotions tangled up with the feelings of when Christmas is coming. My favorite Advent tradition is writing small little notes to my husband and placing one each in our Advent calendar. Each day, we both have a little note of encouragement to open up! We’ve been doing it for now 4 years and it’s our favorite!
Penny Cobb says
My favorite tradition was hearing my father read from Luke 2 on Christmas night. He’s been in heaven 4 years now. I am one of those people who don’t get excited about decorating or shopping and thought I was a Scrooge. Thank you for reminding me I am God’s creation and my emotions are “normal”.
My favorite tradition is when we can get our family together and rent a large cabin for the holidays. We go north where we can enjoy being together in the snow.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Every year I choose a different Advent book, devotional, or Bible study. I look forward to Dec. 1 to begin the journey of calming myself and preparing my heart for His coming. I also have a Jesse tree and each day my husband and I read the corresponding scripture and place the ornament on the little tree. Just as the tree swells with ornaments, my heart swells with anticipation of his coming. The holidays are hard for me in this season, but I keep leaning into the hope that Jesus gives us. Congrats’ on your new book. What wonderful encouagement…I need to add it to my Advent stash of resources!
Elsie Kappler says
The special Advent calendars reminding you when Jesus birthday is coming. Singing happy birthday to Jesus. Reading the Christmas story – the story of Jesus birth. Singing Christmas carols.
Ann Woleben says
My favorite Christmas tradition is baking cookies with my great-nieces. We roll the dough, cut out shapes, bake and decorate. When we are finished baking and decorating, the kitchen is covered with flour, powdered sugar and Christmas sprinkles. The girls are getting old enough to do this by themselves, but I hope they will always want to come to my home and continue this tradition that we started years ago. I am grateful that God is molding me and my great-nieces, much like we mold the cookies.
Nancy Daniels says
When our family meets few days before Christmas to enjoy a meal together, come as you are and we open a gift by numbers and keep opening and if someone wants that gift I have they come and take it, lots of laughs and no one cares about the gift like on Christmas I always am uptight about meal and if everyone will like their gifts.
Karen Vater says
Favorite tradition was Christmas Eve going to my Memere and Pepere’s and all the Aunts and Uncles and cousins gathering for an evening of pot luck dishes, singing Christmas songs and a visit from’Santa’ and when they passed away my Aunt Arlene took over the tradition this has been enjoyed every year except this one will be the first time we’ve not gathered together
Dawn Dutton says
My favorite moments at Christmas are the traditions we have built as a family. I also find joy in remembering the reason we celebrate this season. I do this by reading in scripture about our Saviors birth and life.
Thank you for the giveaway chance.
My favorite advent tradition is eating dinner in the dark with only the light of the advent wreath! It’s awesome to see the light get brighter with each additional candle each week. Our kids love it and the symbolism of it!
Just what I needed. I love receiving these messages each day. It’s beginning to give me much needed tranquility and basic acceptance of most things.
Our family does a nightly advent devotional with a Christmas song leading up to Christmas and it has become one of my kid’s favorite things.
My mom and I usually attend a concert together every Christmas with a full choir and orchestra. It takes place at a different church in the area each year. I doubt it will go on this year with the virus, but it has always been a fun evening for us. We go out to dinner before — sometimes with my dad, too — and then attend the concert with just the two of us. It has been our tradition since moving from Ohio.
One of my favorite traditions is cinnamon rolls Christmas morning. Usually homemade. Some years store bought. I would really enjoy reading this devotional.
One of my favorite traditions is singing Christmas carols on Christmas with my parents and grandkids gathered in a big circle. Each Christmas reminds me that life is so precious. My father is 91 years old. I cherish these moments now more than ever. This year just might start a new tradition…..Zoom Christmas Carols.
Leutisha Stills says
I love serving a God that is big enough for all of my emotions, and loves me enough to help me not live BY my emotions. Thank you, Anna, for your encouragement and for this forum that allows the provision of feedback, sharing and support.
This time of year is always difficult for me. Like Charlie Brown said, I am not sure why. Christmas should be the most wonderful time of the year but for me, I struggle. I want to be able to LOVE this time a year again. Please pray for me.
sarah Cantrell says
I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa and every Christmas we would travel to the neighboring country of Cameroon. There, we would set up camp and fish for two weeks. On Christmas day we would play charades, have hot chocolate over the fire and eat an African stew that was made from the fish we caught. Someone would read the story of the birth of Jesus and later in the day-we would swim in the river and go on a safari. These memories are ones I hold onto and ones I share with my own children.
Pam Souchek says
My favorite Christmas tradition, is gathering around the keyboard and singing Christmas carols at my Aunt’s house on Christmas Eve and drinking Tom and Jerrys 🙂
Annette Ball says
Our family just started an advent calendar that has verses from the bible that aren’t the traditional “Christmas Story”. It is a great time to stop what we are doing and focus on the reason for the season. A second favorite tradition is getting snuggled up in pjs by a fire and watching movies as a family.
Jeri Warrenburg says
One of my favorite traditions for Christmas is, every year I make something homemade and give that as a gift to each of my nephews and nieces for Christmas. Sometimes it’s something that i bake or something that I sew but whatever it is, it is made with love for each of them.
Erin Chudacoff says
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is turning on Christmas music, making cider or tea, and gathering with my family to decorate the Christmas tree. We discuss the history and stories associated with each ornament and share Christmas memories while we decorate.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions a few years ago I found a really pretty gift box that someone gave me I didn’t want to throw it away. I didn’t have alot that year to give to family or friends but the one positive news was I didn’t get a sinus infection so i could enjoy my time off. I read my advent and I wrote myself a note about how my year went and what I wanted in the next year and place it under my Christmas tree. I can only read what I wrote last year after I write this year. It brings me joy to see what I’ve done and what I still need to work on but it’s helped me enjoy my holidays.
Anna, I thought when the election ended, we’d have some certainty about life. But, no, we are being robbed of even the certainty of the Presidential election. We are instructed to doubt and fear. It goes on and on. Enough! I have had enough! I want peace! God can give me that. I must continue to pray. And He is faithful. I would love to bathe myself in the warmth and comfort of this book!
I need this…I need this…
Jillian Angel says
Baking Christmas cookies with my sisters. We did it as kids & now we do it together with all of our kids!
I have always loved everything Christmas and tried to pack so much into December. With 2020 comes a new perspective. Family gatherings will definitely be different. I’m recovering from knee replacement surgery last summer, needing the other knee done. I’m now recovering from Covid. I am seriously a bit depressed at the thought of December.. But as I contemplate what am I able to embrace in my celebrations this year, I know I will experience joy, because Jesus is the only part that matters! Honestly I think watching the Nativity movie is something I look forward to. That movie always brings it all to life for me. Yes there will be family times, although this year part of my group is in Cambodia. Still I am sure we will make something work, probably some zoom time at least. I am grateful that my kids and their children all love and serve Jesus. He is my greatest hope and joy!
Having others, who do not have family or family nearby, over for Christmas Eve dinner.
Dottie Cardoza says
My favorite tradition at Christmas is gathering together with only my adult children and their families, and having a fun meal of snacks and opening gifts, usually Christmas Eve!
This would be such a wonderful blessing especially after the loss of my dear husband. The holidays are coming and it has been hard but God is always so good! Please consider my entry!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
God see everything we do and say. God knows us better than we know ourselves. That is why God loves us to talk to him. Especially if saved. God is our Father. God is there for us. Through the Holy Spirit God will tell us what do next. If it a big problem or small problem. No matter what it is about. God says my child I love you tell me. I love the story of the footprints. You can get it on line. It goes like this when you think you only saw one set of footprints it was then that God was carrying you. Through those hard times. God wants to see you smile again. So that is why God welcomes our Honesty. This is so true. God knows what we are going to say even before we have even said it. So it better to be honest with God. Like Jesus in the story in Mark 5 verse 30 Jesus knew someone had touched him that day even though a whole lot of people had touch him that day because he realised healing power had gone from him. It says that in verse 30. So we can’t get away with anything. Jesus knows all we do. He knew who touched him that day. But he kept looking to see if the person would give themselves up. In verse 32 of Mark. Show Jesus kept looking. Then the women in verse 33 give herself up said it was me. Because she fell at his feet told him what she had done. Touch his clothes in faith to get her healing. Jesus told her in verse 34 of Mark chapter 5 Daughter your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed. So this proves God welcomes your Honesty. Like that women she was Honest with Jesus and said it was me touch you to get my healing. Let do the same if saved. Love today’s reading. Love all incourage readings. Keeping you all in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxx
Brenda M Russell says
Thank you for this opportunity to share a family tradition I have experienced with others.
My mother and grandmother taught me to be thankful year round. But during Thanksgiving and Christmas, they told stories of their childhood memories.
I always enjoyed hearing those stories. One involves a special shoebox.
My grandmother would hide shoeboxes in their modest home. The boxes were ready to be opened on Christmas morning.
The goodies in the boxes could be: Peppermint Sticks, 1 large apple, 1 large orange, walnuts, peanuts and pecans.
The boxes were so delicious.
My mother said they could smell the oranges and apples in the house. My grandmother would also bake a sweet potato pie, a coconut cake and some cookies.
The dinner would be a roasted hen with dressing, collard greens, and buttered cornbread. And sweet tea was the beverage of choice.
I smile as often as I think of the joy my mother had even though their finances were very limited.
Now a days, I think we seem to value material things over food to eat and time with family members. I think we have a little bit to think about. What are our true priorities?
Nancy Ruegg says
I love this sentence, Anna, from your prayer: “I ask for Your healing to be bigger than my despair.” Years ago I experienced a short season (about six weeks) of debilitating despair. I wish I’d known that one-sentence prayer back then, to use as a breath prayer. God surely is bigger than any despair! As for a favorite Christmas tradition, we’ve carried on one from my husband’s family, to read the Christmas story and pray before opening presents. Then, instead of everyone opening packages all at once, the patriarch hands them out one at a time, and the rest of us get to enjoy watching that person open it. I think both customs augment the joy of gift-giving around the tree.
Joan Moore says
Wonderful words of wisdom!
Our Christmas family tradition is a large seafood feast! Shrimp, oysters, gumbo, etc. etc. My dear 86 yo Mother still insists on hosting all 21 of us!!! Amazing!!! We sure do miss my sweet 90 yo Dad who will celebrate his second Christmas in heaven this year.
Thank you for the chance to win your wonderful book!
Charlene Helderman says
I would love to have a copy of this for my daughter. Because of children with life threatening health issues, she and her family have been in strict isolation since March. She has worked a full time job, earned her Master’s Degree, and cared for her family. Yes she can use some encouragement.
Jennifer Ellena says
We do a Christmas poem each year with the night before Christmas theme. It’s nice to look back and remember the things that were going on in past years. Babies, houses, animals, funny stories, sad stories and just life stories.
Christmas to me always means baking, be it cookies, coffee cakes, candy… My mom made so many and gave them away as gifts, it seems as though we had a whole room full of Lannister’s of cookies. I used to take a day off work in December just to bake, and then take large trays into work to share. Now I plan a day with my daughters and friend. It is so nice to gather and just visit. We are all so busy, it is nice to slow down and remember. This year with COVID will be much different, however, I have my first granddaughter to spend the time with. I am thinking my daughter could use this devotional since this will be her first year as a mom. I am trying to purchase faith filled Christmas story books to share with her. May your holidays be joyful with that new baby to share your traditions.
Joy Tomlinson says
One of my favorite traditions is mom reading the Christmas story in the Bible on Christmas morning
Just spending time with my family is something I so look forward to. Stopping admist all the hustle and bustle to play games, read the Christmas story, go look at the lights, drink hot cocoa, etc. Making those memories together is so good for the soul.
Only one? I like lighting the Advent candles each night and singing a verse of O Come O Come Emanuel. I also like how my daughter and I sneak small gifts into my mom’s Christmas stocking when we go over to her house 🙂
Melissa Russ says
We have many Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany traditions. This year will be different because our oldest son joined the army at the ripe old age of 34! He and his family have just reunited after being apart (because of Covid 19 there were no graduations that families could attend!) for 9 months! But usually on Thanksgiving weekend we decorate, and we have Welsh rabbit. We also have Advent devotions using a video that we bought years ago when our son and daughter were young. It explains traditions and gives the real reason for Christmas. This year, since we have 6 young foster sons, we bought several advent calendars with Legos, etc. Each will get a different one. We have one that has chocolates and a Bible verse under each one. If I win Advent devotionals, I can send one to my daughter-in-law, and give one to my daughter, and I will buy one for myself so that we can all share the readings together on occasion. On Epiphany we have a King cake, and then we take down our tree. Thanks!
I’ve been enduring and yet walking through a long season of sadness, brokenness and broken-heartedness. To someone on the outside “looking in”, being so despondent and in emotional pain may seen unreasonable, irrational or even anti-spiritual. Yet, I’ve come to see the beauty in brokenness, and how my brokenness and being open about it is freeing me and others of guilt.
Being in the hard place of deep brokenness and depression doesn’t preclude God’s work in my life. I’m continuing to acknowledge the sadness, while taking small steps forward by God’s grace.
Oooops! I forgot to include my Advent tradition…even as I’m up in the middle of the night!
I designate a few days to make batches of cookies, write cards, wrap in ribbon, and give away to all of our community essential workers, healthcare providers ,and neighbors. the joy on their faces always reminds me of how Mary and Joseph must have felt when the Gift of Jesus was given to them. I always include a blessing and verse of my gratitude to their service, as well.
I would love to read and share this with my teenage kids.
Laura Burgos says
Thank you for sharing such beautiful perspectives on families such as ours struggling during the holiday season. Our daughter, Shelby Marie was stillborn last Christmas so we are going in to this with caution and grace, finding hope in His word. We would love the opportunity to read these devotions to help us navigate our baby girls passing in to heaven during what should have been a beautiful and joyous time.
Beth Williams says
Roughly five years ago my dad was put in geriatric psych hospital. I remember sitting in the lobby after one visit-hearing about all those who had died. I just cried out to God to take my dad now. Why God does he have to suffer like this? Just let my raw emotions out. Turns out God had plans to heal him & give him back to me for about 1 year. The older I get the less I like the holidays. I’m sort of a Charlie Brown if you will. I can’t stand going from Halloween to Christmas & pretty much skipping Thanksgiving. It’s all about the gifts we must buy for everyone. So commercial. My favorite Christmas would be sitting around a fire with someone playing a guitar & singing all kinds of songs.
Our Christmas tradition for the past 16 years is watching Charlie Brown Christmas. We love it & wouldn’t miss it. We actually own all three Charlie Brown holiday specials & watch them all.
Lillian McDougall says
One of our family’s favourite Christmas traditions was to attend the Christmas Eve candle-lighting service at my husband’s church. This service consisted of the children performing a Christmas pageant and ended with everyone leaving the church with a lit candle- signifying the light of Christ. It was a never miss event. We each carefully shielded our candle so the winter winds wouldn’t blow them out and our children refused to go to bed without their candles lit. After they fell asleep I would blow out the candles to prevent an accidental fire. Even after our children were long gone, my husband and I attended the service. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without those candles.
A favorite advent tradition is using the advent wreath and candles to help us anticipate Christmas… a newer tradition is to make an advent countdown for each of my grown children with a note, a reading, or a treat.
Thank you for your insights
As a kid, I always loved Christmas. When my children were little their joy and anticipation made Christmas special. My husband and I got good advice our first Christmas, from our marital mentors. They had children and told us they only give them 3 gifts because Jesus received three gifts on the first Christmas (his birth). We have carried this tradition with us and taught it to our children. We do our best to honor Christ each Christmas and not fall into the commercialism of Christmas. I do admit that it’s hard each year to stay true to this. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having to buy more and bigger things, especially as our children are now teens. But we do our best to only buy three gifts and we always light a candle and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas day. This is a tradition we love to do as we remember the true meaning of Christmas!