Christmas — More Than Just Feelings

By Rita Peters Published on December 21, 2019

I’ll confess: I’ve been listening to Christmas music since early November. So I have no one to blame but myself for the lyrics now running through my brain all day.

I’m sure we all have our favorites and least favorites, but there are two popular songs that I find immensely irritating. One goes on and on about “rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” I’ve never seen anyone do such a thing, and I’ve never been able to make the connection between “rockin’” and Christmas.

The other one urges me to have a “holly, jolly Christmas.” Now, I know what “jolly” means, and I certainly like the idea of a Christmas that is “happy and cheerful.” But how does one have a “holly” Christmas? When I search the world wide web for a description of a “holly jolly Christmas,” I’m told that because holly is a traditional winter plant and rhymes well with “jolly,” I should leave it at that and enjoy the music. Sorry — I don’t.

The song takes a more PG-rated twist when the singer points out to a friend (presumably) that someone is waiting for him under the mistletoe, then encourages him to “kiss her once for me.” As if the sheer number of times this song is played on the radio wasn’t irritating enough, I now have to field questions from my son about what, exactly, the singer means by this. Does he secretly long to kiss his pal’s girlfriend?

From Irritating to Sad

With all the people out there celebrating Christmas in various ways — many of which have nothing to do with the historical reason for the holiday — it’s not surprising that some of them would produce irritating songs. But it doesn’t seem right that a Christmas song should make a person sad. The song, “Where are You Christmas,” sung by Faith Hill, has that effect on me.

You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times. Hill ponders aloud, in her angelic voice: “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can’t I hear music play? My world is changing. I’m rearranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too?”

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What’s sad about this to me is not so much that the singer isn’t feeling that old familiar Christmas joy. What’s sad is that she seems to think that those feelings are, essentially, Christmas.

It reflects a devastating trend in our culture: the elevation of feelings over facts. In the context of Christmas, it’s a tendency that is particularly frustrating, because Christmas is a holiday that actually serves to remind the world that Christianity is based not upon drummed-up emotions or mystical religious experiences, but upon facts. The birth of Jesus Christ at a definite time and place in history, is one of the central facts that form the basis for the faith of every real Christian who has ever lived.

The other pertinent facts are these: God created man. Man chose — and chooses again and again — to disobey the laws for living, which God gave to us in love. God himself paid the penalty that this disobedience earned, by sending Christ into the mess we made, to live the obedient life we could not live, and die the painful death we deserved. God allows us to live in peace with Him and enjoy abundant life forever, by simply putting our trust in the work that He did.

Real Christmas Joy in the Face of a Broken World

There is another Christmas song that I think was intended to make people sad. It’s the one about a “grown up Christmas list.” The singer yearns for: “No more lives torn apart, That wars would never start, And time would heal all hearts. And everyone would have a friend. And right would always win. And love would never end.”

This yearning is fundamental to the human experience. Because it is what we were all created for.

But this song’s sad realizations of brokenness hold no power to rob the Christian of her joy. Because the Christian’s joy does not depend upon suspending reality or blocking out knowledge of all the evil and suffering in the world. It is Christmas, in fact, which provides our very reason for hope and joy in the face of the harshest realities.

Because of the factual events that took place in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago — facts which transcend all of our feelings, dreams and aspirations — the Christian knows that all who believe will one day enjoy as reality that peaceful, perfect world that the song imagines.


Rita Dunaway is a constitutional attorney, the author of Restoring America’s Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture, and co-host of the weekly radio program, “Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet.”

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