What Christmas Means to Me

So, I got some interesting feedback about my “I’m failing at Christmas” video, and I thought I’d just address it here. Lots of people seem to think that I’m not aware of the history of Christmas, or the origin of many of our most popular christmas traditions. Rest assured that I’m aware. Nowadays, anyone with a computer can become privy to the details without investing too much time. So yes, I’m aware that a Christmas tree has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m also aware that Christians have co-opted many traditions that they themselves did not create.

I’m aware.

I’m educated.

This is not about that.

This is about what Christmas means to me, and before I get to that, I need to share some history with you.

This might come as a surprise to you, but I’m not perfect. (Shocker, right?) Actually, if we’re going to be totally honest, I used to be a pretty rotten person. So if you were unfortunate enough to know me (or perhaps date me) many years ago…I’m sorry. Basically, I was a bitter, cynical, mean, selfish jerk. I was manipulative, and took advantage of a lot of good people. But, because my misdeeds aren’t the point of this post, we can leave it at that.

I was incredibly judgmental, and I didn’t like most people. Christians, specifically, were probably my least favorite, but religious folk in general were intolerable to me. I thought they were stupid (belief in Creation), lazy (“God’ll keep forgiving me, so I can keep on sinning as much as I want!”), hypocritical (Christian marriages end in divorce as often as secular marriages), mean, judgmental (treating my tattooed/pierced friends like demons), intolerant (“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”), and hateful (Westboro Baptist Church, etc). And guess what?

They are.

We all are.

Not just Christians, but people in general. People can be pretty wretched. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly have our shining moments, but in general, we all are very very far from perfect, Christians included. But that’s not the point. Perfection I mean. Perfection is not the point.

So, at some point, in the middle of all of my partying and raining on everybody’s parade, I met a few new friends who represented Christianity differently to me. They were way smarter than me for starters (Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Organic Chemistry, to be more specific), and more thoughtful, and just happier in general, and as much as I wanted to dislike them the way I disliked most other religious people, I couldn’t, because they were different. They didn’t pretend they were holy and above reproach, and I respected that. And I think that’s, in part, what made it possible for me to give God and the Bible a chance. (Like, a real chance.)

I already knew a lot about Christianity and God and the Bible, because I was the kind of person that would argue points of the Bible with Christians until they broke down and cried in front of their friends. I did that. (True story.)

Eventually I made the decision to give God a chance (which felt TERRIBLE, like, almost humiliating in some ways) and considered the question “what if what they say about God is true?” And slowly (v-e-r-y slowly), I began to see things differently. Opening my mind (and heart) to the idea that maybe, possibly, I didn’t “know” as much as I thought I did, kind of set a change in motion, and I haven’t been the same person since. Which is so totally cliché that I feel nauseous even writing that. I didn’t have some radical, in-the-moment conversion experience, and even if I had, I don’t think I would have believed it. (I’m still too cynical for that kind of thing.)

So my mind began to change about some things, and as I started to learn about God as a Father, my heart began to change, too. Growing up, I never had a Father, and my Mother was never really interested in me enough to set any kind of standards for my behavior, or an understanding of having healthy boundaries or anything. Basically, there was no one in my life offering any sort of guidance, and no one was really into me enough to care about who I was becoming or what kind of person I was. And I ended up engaging in a lot of behaviors that are totally embarrassing to look back on now.

Once I began to realize that I do have a Father in God, and that he created me intentionally, and that I’m accountable to Him, I naturally shifted away from my old lifestyle, and started living in a way that a child of God would live. And it felt (and feels) SO GOOD. I think a lot of people see living life with God as their father as restrictive, or boring or whatever, but it’s so totally the opposite. Even in my down times, I’ve never been happier, and I can say with complete honesty that every day gets better. Even when crummy things happen. If I seem happy at all, it’s because my deepest joy is totally unconnected from the events of the day.

So, nowadays, I call myself a Christian, albeit reluctantly, because I know first-hand what many people think about Christians. But now I know that being a Christian is about knowing God as my Father, and understanding that he loves me enough to trade all of my nastiness for a life with him, through the redemptive work of Jesus. It’s about knowing that even though I’m still not perfect, and never will be, that He will always be my Father, and will always want me as his child. He loves me enough to care, and that’s huge. For someone without a father, and with no contact with her mother, it’s a lifeline. Sure, the fact that I don’t have like, real physical parents makes me sad, but knowing that God is my father…that’s where all of my joy comes from. (And you can psychoanalyze my daddy-issues as much as you want, that’s fine. I sure have. You wouldn’t be the first to do so.) I’ll never be able to convince you of anything, but at the very least, you can trust that I’m being sincere.

So Christmas, to me, and to some other people, is a celebration of God’s love for us. That he loves each of us–you too even if you don’t know it–and desires us as his children. (Yes, even if you are a total Christian-hater like I was.)

He wants us to recognize and claim our role as his children, because here’s the thing: we’re all equally flawed. Knowing God as your father isn’t, like, limited to just the “good” people. Don’t let those holier-than-thou Christians keep you from experiencing life with God, just because you’re gay, or divorced, or have a prison record, or a substance addition, or have persecuted Christians to the point of tears, just for sport (that one’s all me). He made you and He loves you, regardless of whatever messed up stuff you’ve done. Christmas is a remembrance of the day that God turned his love into flesh and blood and revealed himself directly to the world, just like he promised he would. Christmas is a promise kept, and a promise of a future with God. For everyone. Equally.

I can’t convince you that anything that I said about God is true, but really, that’s not my goal. All I can do is share my story, and how I’ve changed, and what I believe, and listen to your stories and your perspectives. And I hope that you give as much value to me and my experiences as I give to you and yours. Chances are, I used to be in your shoes.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays!

Leave a comment


  1. Happy Holiday from Sabah, Malaysia!
    Great Post, Ms Melissa ^_^

  2. This is the first time that I’ve read anything of yours, the previous post that others were commenting on is a complete mystery to me at this very moment. But I wanted to say that i understand and am really touched by this particular entry. I have a story, that while different in some key ways, plays out somewhat similar and it felt good to see someone else share her experience the way you have. I have often said that Christ and Christianity were never the problem for me. It was just a majority of Christians that I had met left it all with a bad taste in my mouth. I was raised Catholic and still find comfort there, but have gone in so many directions and tried out so many different paths. But at the end of the day, each and every day, I know my heavenly father and trust with all my heart that he knows me. Again, thank you for posting this. And may you have a great Christmas and a most blessed new year! 🙂

    • Glad to know that I’m not the only one! To be honest, I STILL have a problem getting along well with other Christians, so I’m always reminding myself that God has enough grace for me AND them. 🙂 And I really do believe that “to those who knock, the door will be opened.” Never stop knocking, friend. 🙂 Blessings on you!

    • I didn’t go into complete detail, but spiritually, I went down a lot of different paths, too. Heck, I’m still searching. I’m not sure that God is someone I’ll ever have “figured out,” and I’m very skeptical of any belief system that would have me believe that they know it all. It’s so comforting to know that I’m not the only one! Merry Christmas!

  3. Hey Melissa,
    A great read this morning, thanks. I read this quote earlier today and thought of it when I read your post just now :

    “Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you.”

    God bless you and your family,

  4. Melissa,

    This is the first post of your’s that I read. I found it from it being shared of face book, and I’m really glad that I did! What you say is so true! So many people judge others without even knowing them. I was born and raised Catholic and didn’t really find Christ in my life until much later. It was the warmth and compassion of a person sharing his relationship with me in a way that didn’t judge or even question me. He just accepted me. Later, I started attending a church that was very down to earth and welcoming. The pastor there was a great inspiration to me in that he wan’t “all clerical.” If fact he inspired me to become a priest!

    I was an active priest for about 9 1/2 years and a pastor for three. My ministry was very fruitful and people found me approachable because I had similar interests as theirs, and I let them see the real me. I got ordained for the people more than the “Church.”

    Later after ordination, I discovered that I really needed a close companion with whom I could be intimate and not just in a sexual way. One thing led to another and things got complicated with a relationship because of my celibacy requirement. I couldn’t legitimately have a way to have some very real human needs fulfilled.

    I left active ministry in 2007 and have been supporting myself since. Even with the struggles of supporting myself, I still found an inner peace inside. I could pray more and I could and am able to fall into an relationship. It was a winding road, but Christ was and is with me all the way. I am glad where I am today. Now that the church seems to be going back to older traditions and the clergy appears to be distancing itself from the people, I’m glad out of that aspect of it.

    So what I’m basically saying is that I do understand your story and know how “holier than thou” people can make one feel ashamed. Today, I am not ashamed. I too know that God loves me the same today as he always has. God’s love is unconditional. We cannot make God love us more or any less than He already does. He desires a relationship with us, and it is up to us to respond to his call. So no matter where a person is on his or her faith journey it is a good place to be, for God is with us.

    May you have a very peaceful and Merry Christmas!

    Dave Keller

    • Dave, thank you so much for sharing some of your history. Our backgrounds are so different, yet each of us have come to the same understanding that God loves me (and everyone) just as we are. It’s so reaffirming to hear people echo that sentiment, especially when our backgrounds are so different. I’m glad to know that you’re happier now, even though you’re not in ministry in an “official” capacity. I think, in many ways, there is more power and accessibility in testimony that is bared by one who ISN’T in church leadership, especially to non-believing folks. Thanks again! I could pick your brain about your faith journey all day. 🙂

  5. Daniel K

     /  December 22, 2011

    MJ, I enjoy reading your posts because of our shared interests in tech, babies (I have a five-month-old), and faith. This one was especially poignant and well written, so I thought I’d stop by to tell you thanks. This will be my first Christmas as a father, and obviously my daughter’s first, and I think I’m getting to see and experience things in a new light as a result.

    • Daniel, first of all, congratulations on the new kiddo! Those first few months are though, especially if they aren’t find of sleeping during the nighttime. But man, I feel like each day gets exponentially better. And I’m blown away at how much I love her. (Having a child has taught me more about God’s love for me in 17 months than anything previous.) Truly truly a blessing.

      Us tech/baby/faith types are a rare breed. Especially tech/faith. So thanks for your thoughtful comment; it’s comforting to know that there are others out there! Merry “First” Christmas!

  6. Chaliza

     /  February 11, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading your article and taking in your viewpoints. I grew up celebrating Christmas and then by choice decided it was something I no longer wanted to partake in based upon what its background comes from.

    Check out this link, it has a lot of information about Christmas and what it is based upon, all of the info is backed by the Bible, even the King James Version.


    When I read this article it really opened my eyes and answered many questions I always wondered about.

  7. Great to hear your testimony!

    We are all saved for a reason. I pray that God uses you to touch many hearts for His Name’s sake!


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