Excited about Christmas, Less So about Christ

Apathetic toward Christ

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas for more than just the presents that awaited me (though that was a huge part of my excitement). I loved the songs on the radio and our family record player. I loved the anticipation of snow on Christmas morning. I loved watching all the typical Christmas TV shows: “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph”, and every sitcom’s Christmas episode. Christmas was the season, a month or so of pure bliss.

I am in my mid-40s, and yet Christmas is as magical to me now as it was when I was a child. It is hands down my favorite time of year. But as an adult and now as a Christian, it’s not the presents that excite me, nor is it the Christmas entertainment (though I’m certainly not opposed to either). Instead, it’s Christian Christmas music, quiet nights reading with Advent candles burning in the background, and reading advent storybooks as a family.

Overcoming Apathy

Uche Anizor

In Overcoming Apathy, theology professor Uche Anizor takes a fresh look at the widespread problem of apathy and its effect on spiritual maturity, offering practical, biblical advice to break the cycle.

Ultimately, I think what I looked forward to most as a child and now as an adult is the feeling of Christmas. Yet, if I’m honest, this feeling that I long for is sometimes only loosely related to Jesus. While Jesus is often mentioned in the songs and readings, he is too often not the source of the feeling.

I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. As Christians, we sometimes find ourselves excited about Christian things, but surprisingly indifferent to Christ. We can be worked up about our Christian ministries, causes, or institutions, but be fairly apathetic about God himself. This is no less true when it comes to Christmas.

We love Christmas and we truly do love Jesus. Yet, we can sometimes be apathetic about the latter, even during Christmas.

Causes of Christmas Apathy

Apathy is paradoxical and selective. We often care about the things we don’t really care about, and don’t care about the things that we, in our heart of hearts, most deeply care about. But it is not that we care about nothing. Apathy is not care-less. Rather, it is care-adrift, care-misplaced. This is precisely what happens at Christmas time. We misplace our care. We love the trappings but are indifferent about the main thing.

Why does this happen? What could lie behind this perplexing state of affairs? I would like to suggest three potential contributors to our perplexing apathy toward the Christ of Christmas.


You may have heard the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt,” which refers to the idea that when we become closely acquainted with someone, it becomes easier to be bored by them or take them for granted. This can happen in our relationship to Christ, as well as to beautiful Christian truths. At Christmas, every Christmas, we are reminded of the mystery of the incarnation. The baby boy in a manger is God with us, Immanuel. Yet, the constant repetition of this magnificent mystery sometimes dulls us to its grandeur. It begins to sound more like a Christmas slogan and not a celebration of the single greatest event in human history. We are all too familiar with the Christmas story, so we become bored by it. Thus, ironically, we end up numbed by the grandeur of Christmas.


For some of us, familiarity with the grand themes of Christmas is not the issue. Instead, we may find ourselves numbed by constant exposure to the less significant aspects of Christmas. We are inundated with holiday-themed drinks, cheesy pop carols, a half-dozen white elephant gift parties, ten new Netflix holiday movies, not to mention the pressure to create Christmas traditions, buy gifts, and make everything special. At Christmas, the big and the small, the meaningful and meaningless, are given equal billing, and this has a deadening effect on us. We are immersed in the secondary aspects of Christmas. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves losing perspective about what really matters? When everything about the holiday season is treated as maximally and equally important, it becomes harder to feel the bigness of what is truly important. And because the important things don’t often scream at us, we may simply ignore them. We are numbed by the excess trappings of Christmas.


Although we may not be aware of it, there is a spiritual battle raging for our affections. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that our apathy, especially at Christmas, may have spiritual roots. Remember, we do not wrestle merely against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). In fact, the causes of our apathy are spiritual in at least two senses. First, lurking behind the scenes there is a real enemy—the evil one—who relishes our apathy and delights in distracting us. What greater victory than to get Christians to yawn at the incarnation.

Pray earnestly that God would enable you to feel the enormity of the incarnation.

Second, we are also at war with ourselves. What the Bible calls our flesh—that old, spiritually dead part of us—is very prone to being dragged down. There is a real war between our new self, which is created to be like Christ, and our old self, which would be perfectly content living apathetically (Col. 3:9–10). Doing spiritual battle will involve a recommitment to God’s truth, self-denial, brutal honesty, discipline, fortitude, true repentance, and more.

Possible Antidotes

How, then, can we overcome apathy—particularly our apathy surrounding Christmas? Let me suggest some practices that might help address the three causes just mentioned.

1. Make the familiar less familiar.

Be honest and own if you have grown bored of the grandeur of Christmas. God knows anyway. Then do everything in your power to engage the Christmas story in fresh ways. Read the biblical account in a new translation. Listen to creative retellings or watch quality reenactments of the Christmas narrative. Search for a new Advent devotional. Revamp your Christmas music playlist. The basic point: Fight by doing things differently. Fight familiarity by shaking things up.

2. Simplify your Christmas.

One of my most memorable Christmas came about fifteen years ago when my local church was challenged to simplify Advent so that we could have more time and mental space to quietly reflect on the season. We were asked to complete our Christmas shopping well in advance in order to facilitate this. My wife and I tried it (albeit before having kids) and we loved it. We finished our shopping before the end of November, and our Advent was filled with more time for reading, listening to Christmas worship, and quiet reflection. It really helped us not lose sight of the main thing. Simplifying Christmas may feel impossible, but it may be the kind of radical step you need to take to bring Jesus from the periphery back to the center of Christmas.

3. Pray for a rekindled sense of awe.

Pray earnestly that God would enable you to feel the enormity of the incarnation. Or, pray that God would give you a sense of what it felt like for Israel to finally see its Messiah. Pray the words of the song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”—words that unite Israel and the church in our collective longing for the coming of Messiah. Ask God to use those words to humanize and de-sentimentalize Christmas. Perhaps God in his kindness will kindle a heartfelt appreciation for Jesus the Redeemer.

Certainly, there are more causes and more cures for our Christmas apathy. But may we, with God’s help, fight the good fight for joy in the Christ of Christmas.

Uche Anizor is the author of Overcoming Apathy: Gospel Hope for Those Who Struggle to Care.

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