We had stockings, we had Christmas crackers, and we had friendly faces around the table… yet it just didn’t feel like Christmas. Maybe it was the heat. Or my sad, pitiful attempt to make a Christmas tree out of leaves. Or the fact that my family was 15,961km away (they counted). But December 25th simply felt like a random day in the middle of August – not Christmas.
I know that Christmas is more than the gifts or the sugar cookies or Starbucks holiday drinks. I know that there is more to this holiday than awkward family Christmas pictures and tinsel and an insane amount of lights. I know that Jesus is the reason for the season… but it didn’t really feel like that either.
Growing up in the church, I’ve heard the Christmas story more times than the amount of Instagram posts announcing when Starbucks has red holiday cups. It’s pretty much become a blur of Bethlehem, no room at the inn, shepherds watching their flocks by night, an angel of The Lord, and magi from the east. Bla bla bla. I’ve read it, I’ve acted it out in church services, and I’ve seen endless film adaptations. It was hard to not mentally check out when we read in it church this year. It was even harder to try and celebrate this joyful day when the last thing I felt was joy. I have a little less than a month in Malawi and I’m going home to unemployment; I have no idea what my future holds. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the opposite of joyful to me.
But what has stuck out to me this year more than anything, in my confusing Christmas season, is one line from “Oh, Holy Night” – a thrill of Hope, the weary world rejoices. Because I am that weary world. I’m away from family, I’m sweating when I should be wearing a scarf, I’m tired of the apathy of this holiday season. I’m overwhelmed with the thought of leaving a country that has become home, I’m anxious about returning to a community who I feel like I don’t know anymore. And He came to bring me hope, He came to be my hope. That is something worth rejoicing over.
So it still doesn’t feel like Christmas – by American standards, by what I’m used to. But I guess Christmas shouldn’t just be a day, it should be a season. It shouldn’t simply be a meal shared with friends, it should be a mindset. It shouldn’t be gifts given for the sake of spending money on one another, but to celebrate the one, true gift that we were all given. Emmanuel – God with us. That’s what I want Christmas to feel like. That’s what I want my every day to feel like