When Christmas Isn’t How You Wanted

Photo by RedWillow / Lisa


While I listened to the song “Away in a Manger”, it occurred to me that even though the song is lovely, the setting was probably not what Mary had in mind.

I’m sure she would have preferred to stay home, instead of traveling by donkey at nine months pregnant.

She would have wanted to be in her own room, instead of going from house to house and finding no place.

She would have rather not had barn animals for company.

Not ideal.


If your Christmas has no chance of becoming what you wanted, if you’re concerned about money, if you’re afraid your family will be disappointed… 

If this year won’t be the same as last year, or you’re carrying the burden for other people’s holiday happiness…

The ideas we have of the perfect Christmas, favorite foods, the perfect gift, and a full stocking didn’t come from that first Christmas. But somehow, it was those unwanted circumstances that made the hope and beauty of the miracle even more evident.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. What a lovely post!!! Thank you :)

    angelvalerie´s last blog post..Surprised by time

  2. yes, this takes it off of us and back to the real reason we celebrate.

  3. Were you trying to make me cry into my coffee? Because you did :-)

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last blog post..Link Love: I’m Overwhelmed Edition

  4. I think this is a good point. There are so many expectations that come with this holiday. We don’t observe christmas, but instead have focused our attention to the God-ordained holidays of the Bible. It has been liberating to be outside of the expectations and busyness of the day. In not partaking with the general festivities we have been able to focus more of Christ’s gift and righteousness and less on our selves.

  5. This is a beautiful post and will hit home with many of us. Thank you.

  6. Thanks Rachel. Great post…….it is nice to think about Jesus coming to be with all of us.

  7. Lovely post and a great reminder about expectations.

    not related: Thanks for your response to my e-mail. I registered on comment luv and hope to install it on my blog. I love those links to people’s recent blog posts. I think I’ve got it figured out and I’m testing it with this comment *smile*.

    renee @ FIMBY´s last blog post..Carols and Music for the Season

  8. Thanks for the good thoughts.

    Mary´s last blog post..Consider adding a taste of Savannah to your Thanksgiving menu …

  9. Sorry I hit *send* too soon! I tend to forget that her circumstances involved more than humble settings … Mary was asked to become an unwed mother – more than a stigma – it was an act punishable by stoning to death in her day and time.

  10. Thank you for the beautiful reminder! Just last night my husband and I agreed that, due to so much going on besides Christmas in our lives, we would have a simple Christmas dinner this year. Just what I needed to hear. All the stress, preparation, and spending do not really fit in with the remembrance of the humble birth of our Savior.

    HopiQ´s last blog post..

  11. My husband and I are missionaries in the middle east. We have an 18 year old son back in Canada, whom we miss dearly and will not see this Christmas at all (he’s living with my parents while finishing school). This is certainly not what I expected to happen, but we’re trying to make the most of it. I love Christmas, not only for what it represents – the birth of Jesus, but also as a time to celebrate and spend time with those you love. We are now surrounded by palm trees and much warmer weather – we’re longing for snow :) We have put up a tree and decorated our front door and are trying to make the best of this holiday while we’re separated from our loved ones.

  12. Because of the toughest financial times we have ever faced as a family (combined with a steadfast commitment not to charge Christmas on the cards), we are unable to do gifts for family and friends this year. I’m a little surprised, I guess, at how depressing this has been. I’ve always talked the talk of focusing on Christ’s birth and how the significance of our celebrations trumps the gift giving and receiving, but being absolutely unable to participate in the giving part of Christmas has left us both a little dulled and heartsick. We definitely feel that we are having layers peeled back – a painful process that is revealing stuff we didn’t know was there.

    Christmas is definitely not how we would have wanted it this year. Thank you for speaking this truth today, Rachel. I needed to hear it.

  13. Sunshine1976 says:

    Great post, I so needed to hear and remember that. Thank you!

  14. Exactly.

    Well said!

    Blessed´s last blog post..Loving a Hunter Who Is Passionate About Hunting

  15. Lovely. Really puts things into perspective. Thank you.

  16. This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing Rachel. I have just been blessed with every post lately.

    Nicki´s last blog post..What Can I Make Out Of What I Have?

  17. That really stopped and made me think. I will remember that when things are tough and I feel overwhelmed. I always want things to be perfect but they never quite are and I am disappointed. Thanks for reminding me what this holiday is all about.

  18. So true and so beautiful. I need to be reminded. Thank you.

  19. Rachel,

    Thank you so much for this gentle reminder to enjoy our Christmas and our lives just the way they are.

    Merry Christmas!

    Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home´s last blog post..Garland Parade

  20. Thanks for the reminder. Lovely post.

    Rachel´s last blog post..Carnival Reminder

  21. I’m talking about the same thing today. Expectations and perceptions keep us feeling we aren’t enough but the truth is we are enough for HIM just as we are.

    Org Junkie´s last blog post..When You’re Not Enough…

  22. Thank you so much for this reminder. My husband and I and our newborn son had to move in with his mother several months back when our house sold much quicker than anticipated. I thought by now we would have finished building a new home and be decorating for the holidays. But things have changed and that’s not meant to be for this year. It’s easy to feel sorry for myself — I appreciate your words this morning!

  23. Beautiful post…thank you. I so needed to hear those words. In fact, I’m going to link to this post!

  24. Thanks for the post… I have passed on to friends… have a blessed day.

  25. Thank you for this. I needed to hear it!

    Keri´s last blog post..That Time of Year

  26. Yes, yes, yes! What a poignant post! Thank you!

    Shilo´s last blog post..Thank You for Joining Me

  27. Amen, sister! What a beautiful post and a great reminder. It is the importance of togetherness and tradition for me, not all the other stuff.

    Amy´s last blog post..Inspiring Moms: Kallie Wegmann from Discover Chiropractic

  28. GREAT post!! I’ve thought about Mary often this week as I’ve been re-reading Max Lucado’s He Came Near.

    Peace. Joy. & Love to you –

    murdock@eotnet.net´s last blog post..Room 1 …

  29. Beautiful reminder. Thank you.

    Sarah´s last blog post..overnight oatmeal muffins

  30. Rachel, that was SO perfectly said. And something well worth hearing at this time every year.

  31. WOW- thanks :) I needed that today. Beautiful, simple, and true. Merry Christmas.

  32. What a perfect reminder for this time of year!


    Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom´s last blog post..Marathoning part two – Choosing your marathon

  33. That was exactly what I needed to read today.
    Thank you.

  34. A great reminder of how we are really rich with what we have.

    12 Years we went through a incredibly hard time. You can read about it here if you wish: http://downwithdebt.today.com/2008/11/24/dont-forget-about-others-this-season/

    My family went through some incredible lean times, and yes, others were truly ungrateful. I remember our family members that were less then satisfied with the homemade gifts (I have since quit giving gifts to them) but I thought of them and gave them something even though I really had nothing to give. I think back at there distaste and it makes me sick, I vowed to never raise my kids to believe they are entitled to anything from anyone, and to be grateful if they receive something no matter how large or small.

    Jesus gave himself to us, what more of a gift could you ask for.

    It is because of those not-so-desirable times that has made me a better person, not everything in live is planned, at the time I did not see it but now as I look back I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me and I will never forget it and am grateful I got to live the experience that taught me that there is more to life than just things.

    rdzins´s last blog post..Homemade Christmas dish towel angel

  35. Bravo. This was so well said–thank you!

    The Nester´s last blog post..Your Garland is Showing

  36. Thank you so much for this post. It was a great reminder for me. My husband was surprisingly and shockingly laid off this past Tuesday. It was a serious shock to us since his boss had just told him (and others he laid off) that their jobs were secure. We were already planning on a leaner Christmas, but we have now returned most of the gifts to the store. We will now be blessed to focus on the true reason for Christmas and also to focus on simple things: reading Christmas stories by Christmas tree lights, enjoying warm cocoa cuddled on the coach, watching favorite Christmas movies, and enjoying time together. We remember how truly blessed we are.

  37. This is such a great and timely post. I’ve also really enjoyed reading the other comments here too. It gives such a warm feeling to read thoughts from so many good people.

    Rainy @ More Gravy´s last blog post..Making Christmas treats with young children

  38. Catching on my blog reads and read your post. Very true and beautifully put. Our pastor preached a similar sermon on Sunday. Thanks for the reinforcement.

    Sue´s last blog post..No snow……

  39. Our Christmas was far from perfect because I’m having issues with getting stuff done but we all hada great day and really enjoyed ourselves.

  40. Oh, I wish I had read this last year! Last year was my second year of marriage, and thus the year to be with my husband’s family for Christmas (and my birthday, which is December 31st). It was also the first time in 22 years I’d ever been away from MY family for those. I don’t know how many tears I cried over it. Funny thing is, when all was said and done, it wasn’t as devastating as I’d expected for the past year. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me, but I actually had a good time. :)