By now you probably have hung the stockings with care, purchased (or cut down) and lit a Christmas tree, gotten out all of the Christmas decor, Santa-shaped sugar cookies are rising in the oven, and perhaps soft Christmas music plays through your home on a Bluetooth speaker. Of course, it’s true. This is what Christmas looks, smells, and sounds like. Right?
What if this depiction doesn’t resemble your Christmas at all? What if Christmas just isn’t your thing—if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? Some years the holiday loses the luster. Maybe a grief or hardship has cast a shadow over the season. Maybe fatigue and discouragement has set in at just the wrong time. Or maybe the Christmas-y atmosphere simply doesn’t carry for you the bright, twinkling joy it holds for others. I’ve been thinking about this lately and offer a few encouragements to you—the low-key celebrators. And I use that term—low-key celebrator—with compassion and understanding. I know the challenge that comes when we just aren’t feeling the holiday cheer.
EMBRACE SIMPLICITY AT CHRISTMAS
We live in a world and culture often marked by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The commercialization of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations cries out for more and more. Bigger gifts, more lights, louder music, multiplied parties. For low-key celebrators it all feels like more than they can handle. As a result, they feel left out, left behind, and cast away. And yet, we may be overlooking an important truth. There is a quiet beauty in embracing simplicity. For those who find themselves resistant to the elaborate decorations and grand festivities, their strength lies in pursuing joy in smaller, yet still meaningful moments which offer a return to the essence of the Christmas holiday.
The original Christmas delivers big grace in a small, unimpressive package. Even though the modern holiday comes adorned in a thousand twinkling lights, the essence of Christmas requires nothing more than a heart of gratitude for a coming Savior. That’s it—that’s all it takes. And this gratitude can be seen in a myriad of simple celebrations; from reading the birth narrative in solitude or enjoying a silent meditation on the many gospel blessings brought to us Jesus (Philippians 4:11–12, Luke 2:10–11). By simplifying the approach to the holiday season, the low-key celebrators will savor the magic in the uncomplicated solace of a simple act of worship.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS IN SMALL, MEANINGFUL WAYS
Another challenge you may feel is the overwhelming expectation of multiplied gatherings. When our bandwidth feels short and the expectations run high, the sweet joy of the world can devolve into what tastes more like sour grapes. Yes, while the holiday season emphasizes the importance of togetherness, we do well to mark that the quality of connections far outweighs the quantity. For those of us who are reluctant to engage in the typical gatherings and parties of the season, we might shift our focus to fewer, intimate, and meaningful interactions.
Simple acts like reaching out to a close friend or family member for an encouraging conversation, a short and sweet coffee date, or even an evening of handwriting a few cards can make others merry when energy wanes. Low-key celebrators can prioritize depth over breadth in our holiday engagements, and yet still cultivate meaningful connections which spread the warmth of Christ during this important season.
Participating in acts of kindness around the local or church community provides a unique avenue for merry-making during the holiday season. Volunteering time or resources to those in need provides not only a sense of purpose but affords us simple, shared experiences of faith, hope, and love (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10).
CREATE PERSONAL TRADITIONS
Finally, my dear low-key celebrators have shown the way by creating their own personal traditions. The only rule of Christmas is the rule of Christ. Thus, we all have freedom to express our faith in Christ in the ways which make most sense to our individual lives and personalities. Must we all have a Christmas tree in our homes for three weeks in December? No. Must we all carol from door to door? No. Must we all hang and stuff the stockings with care? No. These and many other traditions are common and enjoyed by many . . . but not all.
Again, when griefs mount of hardships rise or even when the unique nature of our lives do not spark strong interest in elaborate displays of the holiday, we may find comfort and freedom in knowing the big ticket traditions of our culture do not make Christmas into a real Christmas. Christ brings Christmas to our hearts, by grace through faith. Thus, if you find this Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (for one or more of many good reasons), rest in the freedom of Christ. Bring your heart of worship to the holiday in ways which honor him and encourage you—even if the traditions are simple or solitary.
Prepare a cherished family recipe for just you and a close friend. Curate a simple playlist of your own favorite holiday tunes. Dedicate time to a creative pursuit that highlights your joy in Christ. Such personalized traditions not only infuse the season with authenticity, but they also serve as a reminder that Christ is the Good Shepherd at the heart of Christmas, who knows his sheep and loves them in season and out of season.
And in this, we are reminded that beyond small or simple traditions, the power of Christian gratitude brings real, lasting cheer to the holiday season. Here’s another idea for the low-key celebrators among us: spend time developing a gratitude journal during this season. Record each day one reason you’re grateful for our Savior, Emmanuel, who has come to us (Colossians 3:15–17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). If you’re not able to assemble the tree, hang the lights, and spruce the poinsettias this Christmas, may your heart still be brightened by the magic and wonder of the gospel.
I Want to Escape: Reaching for Hope When Life is Too Much
When life overwhelms, it’s natural to try to get away. Escape holds a powerful allure amid hard times. Even though we have many good reasons for trying to escape, as Christians, we have even better reasons to depend courageously on our Savior in the ups and downs of life. Pastor Rush Witt helps us learn to bravely run to Christ instead of running away.