I’m trying, I really am, but sometimes my efforts feel as broken as the candy-cane from Canada that I just stuck in my coffee to make it feel like Christmas. There are only so many traditions I can keep when I have no family, no Pennsylvania, and none of my standard Christmas activities to do. I can’t bundle up in coats and scarves and go Christmas shopping with my friends. I can’t listen to Christmas carols with my sister and belt them out in a way I would never do in public. I can’t help my nieces decorate Christmas cookies at the annual Christmas cookie exchange, or go to the family gatherings and argue with my cousins, or stay up late sprawled in the living room with my family on Christmas Eve. I knew I would be gone for Christmas this year, but I didn’t even consider before I left that I had never been away from home for the holidays before, or how much it would bother me… And virtual dates–they just aren’t quite the same. I feel a sort of bitterness towards anyone who can spend Christmas with their boyfriend this year, a deep-rooted anger that doesn’t make sense, and must be repented of. To be a little homesick is maybe okay, but to live resentfully is never okay. Because it was God Himself Who brought me here… To quote C. S. Lewis’ Perelandra: “But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maleldil is rolling towards us?”
He rolls towards me a new kind of Christmas, and how can I wish that it wouldn’t be? Jesus was born to save all the world, and Christmas, the real Christmas, can happen without family and snow. I will open a quiet place in my heart and rejoice, along with the sorrow. He left His home as well as I. There was much pain and discomfort in the lives of all concerned the night of Christ’s birth. And Mary? I’m almost certain she felt her mother should have been there that night, just like I sometimes wish my mom were here.
And so, I have been choosing to celebrate in the ways that I can. After all, this is not the first Christmas that I felt that things weren’t quite the way they should be. Christmas, unfortunately, is not the new Creation–only a foreshadowing. Some days I need to remind my overly sentimental self of this. Here are some ways I’ve been celebrating this year. They are not, however, the real joy of Christmas. That lives in our hearts all year, and there is no need for the bride of Christ to feel she must capture it as it slips past in one quick week.
#1–Every day, this entire month, Ben and I have done advent devotionals together via video call. He said we should get candles, but I haven’t seen anywhere to get a nice jar candle in Bangladesh. So instead, he lights a candle and shares it via video call. We have read the prophets for-telling of Jesus’ birth, the Christmas story itself, and the hope of the life Jesus offers. Now we are reading of His promise to come again.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
#2–I have loved Handel’s Messiah for years. My brother-in-law got me CDs of it for Christmas years ago. I had parts of it memorized and loved to annoy my family by singing, “Thou shalt dash him to pieces with a rod of iron,” in a big man’s voice. (Maybe.) I am currently listening to the part about preparing a way in the wilderness for God. My goal is to listen to the whole thing today, on my off day.
#3–I have been posting advent posts to Instagram every day leading up to Christmas. Somedays I have to search a little to find something to take joy in… If you follow me on Instagram, this blog-post is probably a little repetitive–you already know all about my efforts to rejoice, at any cost.
#4–Last night the Americans here in little Ukhiya gathered and sang Christmas carols. Everyone sang “Go Tell It On the Mountains” fervently indeed. We had hot chocolate and Christmas cookies afterwards. Food is one way of celebrating, you know. I have plans to have a donut-making party this afternoon with the house parent’s daughter, also.
#5–Another way to celebrate Christmas is to go to work and bandage their wounds–great or small–without rolling my eyes at the full-grown man who groans over the little cut on his little finger. I can give lollipops to the little children, because Jesus was a child once too, and I can receive grace for each moment from the One Who died to give me that grace. In giving, sometimes we get more than we gave. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Give up your manger for God, and maybe God Himself will come into your manger, within easy reach of You.
I have no more wise thoughts about Christmas. I just know that it will happen, and it will be blessed if you are serving God, no matter where you are. Whatever you are facing today–death of a family member, death of traditions due to COVID, death of your dreams, or just plain old homesickness, take heart! Today a Savior is born to you.