For All the Christmas Failures

For All the Christmas Failures

I am a perpetual loser at Christmas. While some folks have a skillfully crafted game plan and crush it on Christmas traditions, people like me can’t remember where we shoved the box of Christmas decorations we managed to procure between overseas moves and the stuff we bought from expat friends’ “leaving & liquidating” sales. Our kind can usually be found frantically wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, though it’s technically Christmas Day at 2:00 am by the time the we’re finished.  

If crappy decorations and hastily-wrapped gifts and aren’t enough, folks like me will also bring some colossal failure to the kitchen! I normally shun baking because of my lack of self-control when it comes to sweets. And while I understand that making Christmas cookies is a time-honored, Insta-worthy tradition, I kind of hate it. It’s an enormous mess with cleanup that takes just as long, if not longer, than the actual baking and decorating of the holiday weight gain Christmas cookies themselves. Since I am not an avid baker, I will typically ruin at least two batches of cookies before one comes out looking edible. Decorating is supposed to be the fun part, but in what mythical fantasy world do children actually not fight over stirring and sharing the icing? On what planet do our best efforts at festive confectionary not look a tad obscene and give us a tinge of awkward dread as we plate them up for our neighbors and friends? 

Thankfully, pastries and decor are not actually integral to Christmas. A loving voice still calls out to slow down and abide with him. Thus, we set out Advent calendars and read Christmas devotionals together as a family. And truly, it is a wonderful way to settle our hearts and cozy up with gratitude for God’s eternal gift! But, without fail, we will fall behind on the daily devotional readings, and then face the decision of whether to skip ahead to today’s reading, or go back and catch up. Or maybe we should just read a couple of the ones we missed? Or should we just quit altogether and try again next year? And what about the Advent chocolates we missed because of bad attitudes or late nights? Do I let the kids have four chocolates each before bed on a school night, or “assist” them in catching up once they’re fast asleep?     

While I do truly love Christmas, I also know that my efforts to follow through with a grand plan of festivity will invariably go somewhat awry. And, I’m starting to be ok with that. This year, preparations for Christmas are going to look different. With social distancing and quarantine measures in effect throughout much of the world, the parties, large gatherings, and cookie exchanges will be sparse to nonexistent this year. Maybe this unique year is a chance for us to experience the celebration of Jesus’ birth differently. What will we see when we strip away the extras and grapple with the raw wonder of God’s precious gift to us?

I don’t know about you, but our family’s approach to preparing for Christmas is long overdue for some change. Given the circumstances, we don’t really have a choice but to overhaul our plans! Rather than feeling guilty over a half-finished Advent devotional, we have picked out some features surrounding Jesus’ birth and planned a few activities based on those. Here is what my family has come up with:

Stars–  We live in a beautiful, sandy desert complete with swaths of land that are blissfully dark at night. We’re hoping to try our hand (er, eyes) at stargazing! While at it, we can talk about the importance of the stars and how God used them in the process of guiding important visitors to Jesus.

Shepherds– A sheep / goat / camel market is a few minutes’ drive from our house, so we are going to check out the animals! The men who care for these sheep are, unsurprisingly, the lowest on the socioeconomic scale in our country. We are hoping to take the livestock handlers some tea and share what an important role shepherds played at the birth of Jesus.

Frankincense & Myrrh – In the Middle East, Frankincense and Myrrh are widely available as they are commonly used in burned incense. So, we are going to burn some at home and try not to destroy any property!  

Gold– There is a gold market nearby! We are planning to make a drive-by trip to the gold souq with the mission of selecting (though not purchasing) a “gift of gold” for a newborn king.  

The best part in all of this is that, despite our Christmas shortcomings, Jesus is still the Lord of Christmas. He is the humble God incarnate, and his extravagant love for us does not change. Even if only one or absolutely none of our plans work out, the Savior is still Immanuel, God with us.  

How do you anticipate the pandemic affecting your Christmas traditions this year? Will you be adding anything new or axing out something special? Does your city offer anything unique that could make Christmas time special? Please share in the comments! 


  1. Jenny December 8, 2020

    So appreciate this blog! I feel seen in the midst of my own lackluster efforts and scattered devotional readings, haha. Thank you for the gift of your words and perfectly explaining the war that breaks out when I bake and the kids want to “help”. This was so refreshing to read.

    1. Emmy December 9, 2020

      I’m so glad this resonated! I had hoped that I wasn’t the only one feeling like Christmastime at my house didn’t at all resemble a Hallmark movie. Thanks for your kind words, Jenny!

  2. Hannah Rudolph December 9, 2020

    This is great! I live in the Middle East too and your ideas at celebrating are just perfect! 👌🏻 Thank you for sharing. I love how we can all find ways to honor Jesus and help our little ones make memories. (And in my experience with two littles…making memories happens to coincide perfectly with making messes!)

    1. Emmy December 9, 2020

      How cool! I feel like we are pretty privileged in the MidEast to get some of those geography-specific aspects of the Christmas. Yes, for better or worse, my kids are also mess specialists! 😆

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