rebelling against low expectations

The Reason We Get Christmas All Wrong


“What is Christmas if there never was a Savior wrapped, in a manger?
What is Christmas without Christ?”

Kutless asks this in their song, “This is Christmas.”

My answer is, The American Christmas.

Everyone is celebrating Christmas today (my atheist neighbor, the spiritualist who hangs out downtown, even the Buddhist monastery near the church where I take piano lessons).

The only thing is, they take all the traditions about Jesus out and just leave the rest.

Some people even go so far as to leave out any connection to Christ whatsoever. You hear things like, “Happy holidays!” or “Merry X-mas!”

Have you noticed how no one gets offended when you say “Happy Hanukkah!”? Yet they very well might if you use the word “Christmas.”

So, you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Great, there’s religious discrimination, America is terrible, and I’m glad I’m not secular. This is all good and nice, but so what? I’m a Christian – how does this apply to me?”

This is how it applies to you – you have the same problem. And so do I.

We’re just like the rest of the culture. The only difference is, we should know better.

Did you know that non-believers have their own “sanctified” version of Christmas? Where they start with their mental health and consume natural sleep inducing products and CBD vape pens are the newest trend in vaping in the Christmas evenings. They’ll say that Christmas certainly shouldn’t be about gifts (especially not parents who hate the holiday stress). No, Christmas is about love and about family.

Starting to sound a little more like what a Christian would say? What you or I might say perhaps?

I don’t doubt that you know in your head that Christmas is about Jesus. How can you not know it? It’s in all the Christmas carols, nativity pageants, and even in Charlie Brown.

But do you know it in your heart?

Do you wake up on Christmas morning and say, “I’m so happy Jesus was born!”?

Or do you go along with the rest of the world and ask, “I wonder if I’m getting that Canon MX93 I told my dad I wanted”? Or, “How am I supposed to wear red and white and not look like a candy cane?”

A lot of Christians are depressed at Christmas.

They’ve lost loved ones – close relatives, maybe even a spouse or a child.

Making Christmas about family, food, gifts, and a nebulous feeling called love – something everyone wants but no one exactly understands – isn’t going to help them.

The reason they’re depressed is precisely because of the loss of a family member. They don’t really want to eat since … they’re depressed. Gifts just aren’t going to fill the void. And frankly, love hurts and no one knows what it is anyway so why bother?

Wait! Actually, someone does know what it is and his name is Jesus and he came as a baby and …

“Okay, John! We’ve heard this story a million times. Can you please just cut to the chase?”

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13).

“I meant that figuratively!”

Okay. Maybe you have heard the Christmas story a million times. But most likely you’ve heard it like I have. Let’s hear it the right way.

It begins with what we already know.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb (Luke 2:1-21).

But it doesn’t end there.

Jesus died to pay for our sins, and then he rose again.

And this is the important difference between how we usually hear the Christmas story and how it is told in the Bible.

The story doesn’t end with Jesus rising again either.

It actually never ends. You’re part of the story. I’m part of the story.

Christmas isn’t about something that happened 2,000 years ago. It’s about something that is happening here and now inside of us.

Christmas is about family. God’s family.

Christmas is about food. The Bread of Life.

Christmas is about gifts. The gifts of the Spirit that we can partake of here and now.

And Christmas is most certainly about that thing that everyone wants but only one Person fully understands – love. Jesus not only understood it. He is it.

Remember the atheist neighbor, the spiritualist downtown, and the Buddhist monastery? Now, that is depressing.

If the holiday tradition of gift giving is really about giving and not getting, then why don’t you give the gift that matters most – the gift of Christmas?

What’s so happy about the holidays? Why are we even celebrating X (whatever that is)? Isn’t this all a little drab?

When you “know the truth” about Christmas “the truth will set you free” from this holiday and make it a holy day – a reason to rejoice (John 8:32).

Join me in asking God this Christmas, “What are you going to give me today?”; “What have you already given me?”; and “How can I give back to you?”

You might just be surprised by his answers.

Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re going to see Christmas differently.

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Photo courtesy of Pete and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Jason Zimmerman

is a 16-year-old passionate about serving God through writing and drama and loves embarking in strong God-honoring relationships with other believers. He is currently working on a full-length middle-grade novel, The Cruel Cat and The Hero’s Tail. He is also part of a Christian dance studio and has been taking piano lessons for ten years.


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  • Good thought provoking post.

    Without Christmas, there is no hope. Our sin is the reason there is a Christmas. While we celebrate all the fun and feelings of Christmas, we should be humbled by our part in it and forever grateful. But then out attitude should be that every day.

    Have a Merry Christmas.

    Ms. Jean

    • Merry Christmas, Ms. Jean!

      I definitely agree that that should be our attitude every day. We are pressing on towards that goal!

  • Hey John! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article; your honesty and humor were quite refreshing! Thank you for making the distinction that Christmas is not even (at its root) about family, but about Christ =^D

  • Wow, good stuff, bro! Thanks for writing this great reminder! =)

    Oh one quick thing, the X in Xmas actually represents Christ…according to the dictionary, the origin of the term is “X representing the initial chi of Greek Khristos ‘Christ.’” Just thought I’d clear that up for you =D

  • I have been asked many times this year why I hate Christmas (which I don’t, just many aspects of it) and this article is so on point that I am seriously considering asking my family to sit down and listen to me read it so I can evangelize them. I don’t know if that would be received very well. 🙁 I am praying about how I should share my feelings and more importantly, the Truth, which is an infinitely higher priority.
    I thank God for the passion in your words and pray you continue to grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
    May we, His people, as it says in that passage from Luke, receive (and enjoy and live in and keep seeking) that peace that came with Him (seek HIM, who IS OUR peace), with all our hearts, believing with all our hearts that, as we do, He will continue to be found by us. And, as we are filled with His love and light, may we shine like stars in the universe (loving our neighbors as ourselves) in the midst of this crooked and perverse (and depressed) generation, so that some will come to know Him…

    Lord Jesus, clothe us anew today and everyday, in your love and compassion. Thank You for doing that and for giving us Your wisdom (single eye) to see only what You know is important. Thank You for Your heart that gives us strength to do Your will and accomplish all You have prepared for us to do, since the beginning of time.

    Be glorified in our lives today, as they are more and more surrendered to You. (Grace to grace, glory to glory…)

    Amen. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    • Wow! Thanks for this. I’m glad it resonated with you so well. 🙂 And I loved your prayer. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you mean by the single eye thing?–John

      • From the KJV: The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
        Luke 11:34 KJV

        This verse and the ones around it for context are good for studying. The way it is translated here: “single eye” is not found in the more contemporary versions. Some of the other ones use the words, “clear” and “sound”… And both of those words help us to understand more fully what the Lord is communicating here.

        There is a very old song that I used to love to sing for my grandma and my dad (they both liked the song and I guess thought it was cute for me to sing it when I was young…) that goes, ” I only have eyes for you, dear…”

        That song just popped into my mind as I was typing this response. He is a jealous God and is worthy of our total devotion. Running around after other “lovers” is adulterous…even the seemingly moral and righteousness ones: family, ministry, (some would add Christmas…), even marriage!! When all of that is on the altar, (everything that matters to us), and we “only have eye(s) for Him”, the Light in us is great and He can order everything else according to His love and wisdom (His priorities) and “add all these other things unto us”…

        A note on jealousy: this is not the same as envy, as this has been confusing to some…
        Jealousy is wanting what is rightfully yours, envy is wanting what does not belong to you. “Love (whose name is God) does not envy”, but God is jealous, loving what is His with a passionate everlasting Love, even suffering to show us His love, making a way for our “wayward” selves back to Him! Envy would only be interested as long as something would be in it for itself. It would never suffer and die for another.
        It just occurred to me that we can be jealous for what He has said is ours: i. e., maybe a future spouse and children, the work He has prepared for us, even our very faith!! And in that Holy jealousy, we can wait and pray, knowing that He will set everything in its proper place in time. He will make everything beautiful in His time. We have no need to look upon or desire something or someone that is not His will for us (envy) because, as we “seek Him first and His righteousness (with our “whole hearts”), He will make sure it is all added unto us, and the biggest blessing: He will be found by us!!

        Thank You, Lord, Holy and (appropropriately jealous) God, for all of these great and precious promises which are ” yes!” And “amen!” in Christ, our Bridegroom! What a Beautiful Savior! What a Good, Good Father! What a perfect Helper (Holy Spirit) You are!! <3

        May He help you (all of us) to understand just how much we have been given (everything we need for LIFE and godliness) to thrive and shine and poured out in such a time as this…

        Love, only because of Him,

        • Everything you’re saying is super good! Thx so much. I would just add that I believe there is a difference between God’s jealousy and our jealousy. God deserves everything. Everything rightfully belongs to him, so he has a right to be jealous. There is very little that rightfully belongs to us, so we can have a wrong kind of jealousy, which is really ‘envy’ that is demanding something that we believe is rightfully ours. I think that this would include marriage and children. Those are gifts of God that we do not deserve. After we are married of course, we do have a right to be jealous if our spouse cheats on us etc. because of the promise we made to each other.

          I definitely agree though that we should be jealous for our salvation (maybe not so much because it is rightfully ours but because it is rightfully God’s) and also God’s calling for our lives.

          I think we have to be careful though when talking about God’s calling for our life because God’s idea for our life can be very different than what we think His idea for our life is.

  • Great thoughts, John. Even though “Christmas Day” was yesterday, all that you said in your article is just as meaningful today. Thank you for these reminders!

  • Awesome article, John! It’s soooo true that the most important reason for Christmas was so that Christ could be born into the world to save sinners….it doesn’t matter who it is…Christ came into the world to save them. He loves us…so awesome to know that isn’t it?! Thanks for the backup on the true meaning of Christmas! 🙂 Hope you had a great one!

      • It was super! One of the things that I got as a present (not that this is above Christ whatsoever) was a spy pen. It looks and feels like a normal metal pen, but it actually is a camera. I can take photos and videos without anybody realizing it! Of course, there were other things, but that was my favorite.

        So, about the Nutcracker thing (which I know is getting old, but on which I’m still curious), I have watched the movie a couple times several years ago. However, what I’m confused about is exactly what you’re doing (or already did). Is it sort of like a play….dressing and dancing for instance? Whatever it is (or was), I’m sure it is, would be, or already was great!

        Also, do you know how to make your own blog??? I really want to make one, but I don’t know how….so if you do, could you explain it to me?

        Btw, a latter Happy New Year to you 🙂

        • Stephen, if you could email me to [email protected] I could help you out with blog stuff. I don’t actually have my own blog any more since I kind of gave up. . .but I’m thinking about starting over again sometime. Yeah, we were doing a dance. I guess you could kind of call it a play, but it was more of a dance performance.

          • Okay, I’ll try to email you sometime soon. That’s cool about the dance performance….did you video it?

          • There’s a video of it, but we have to buy it. I’m not sure. The person who filmed it didn’t answer my email about how much it costs.

  • John wrote an article, John wrote an article, John wrote an article!!! Congratulations!
    Anyhow. Good one! I look forward to seeing more from you!

By Jason Zimmerman
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →