Dare I say it out loud? I’m not sure it can be said in polite Western society. I am not a Christmas fan. There I did it, admitted my secret thoughts.

Christmas growing up wasn’t filled with memories that I treasure. Perhaps I knew that Santa, presents, chocolate and television weren’t the essence of Christmas? Perhaps I just missed eating meals at conventional times or maybe I felt overstimulated by the music and the excess of everything? Deep down I know it’s more than that.

Christmas as a smaller child was all about the big man in the clouds, the one who’d watched me all year and had my name written in his big book. Once I came of age and the reality faced me, what was left of Christmas? No Santa, no Christmas?

I remember the first Christmas without mum, I was still a child but not yet a Christian and the pointlessness of the day rattled through my bones. We opened presents after Midnight Mass, why wait for the morning, why keep tradition? Money was tight and every gift felt an unnecessary expense, wasted on a day we could just pass by. Passing it by seemed easier, the pain less noticeable if we could just pretend. That’s my coping skill, just smile and keep saying you’re fine. Fake it ‘til you make it.

But God reached into that brokenness and showed me a real man who would return on the clouds of glory, who has written my name in His book and who doesn’t just watch me but he lives in me, loving me back to wholeness. Jesus is the only one who can give us each the Christmas present we really need. He offers us the gift of himself, we just need to accept that gift.

Why then is it that Christmas is still so uncomfortable for me? Surely with Jesus at the centre everything is wonderful? The reality is that healing is a process and none of us will be completely whole this side of Heaven, but each day God continues to work on our hearts, continues to draw us to himself.

Each year I stuff down those old painful memories and put on top the Jesus filled, family focused Christmas we desire for our family. The problem is, the memories keep rising back up and fill my stomach with butterflies. I think perhaps saying it out loud to you all is the first step in letting go of the past. I guess I have to admit the hurt exists in order to ask Jesus to heal it.

In an effort to break generational patterns Phil and I are writing a new story onto the hearts of our children, a true story, one which they won’t grow out of but they’ll grow deeper into. The truth of Jesus Christ is so much more beautiful than the childhood tale of the man with the stuff-filled sack.

Christmas is hard for so many people and although I don’t want to dampen anyone’s joy, I want to be real. It’s easy to see the images of saccharine-sweet families, seemingly perfect and joy-filled and yet the reality is so often different. My prayer this year is that God uses my brokenness to reach into the lives of those who know pain, who carry emotional scars and for whom Christmas is filled with darkness.

It was into the darkness that Jesus was born, to bring light, hope, joy and salvation. His love is what carries me and it can carry you too, you just need to receive it, and that would be the only present you would ever need.

Sending you all love and blessings this Christmas time.

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