Every expat can tell you stories of holidays overseas. I’ve been watching moms across our city search for advent calendars, cream cheese, peppermint sticks… anything to make the holidays feel like “normal” from their lives before. Other times, I think, it’s in a genuine effort to share what a “western” Christmas looks like with their friends and neighbors who haven’t ever experienced it before.
We are learning a new dance between the traditions and family gatherings and abundant holiday lights from our home culture, and the quieter, distant culture here that doesn’t celebrate at all. In a sense, we’re finding a new balance between worlds.
WE ARE BUILDING NEW TRADITIONS.
We got away to a little mountain village in the north for a few days since the counseling office was closed and found SNOW! I think a little getaway at Christmas might be a new tradition for us if we can help it. We read a couple new (to us) advent devotionals this year, helped with the candlelight carols service at our international church on Christmas Eve, listened to Carols from Kings on Christmas morning and celebrated with friends around our table that night.
WE ARE LOOKING FOR BEAUTY.
In the simple pleasures of new foods, new places, new friendships. I think that’s important every season, but sometimes especially when we come with expectations of a certain time being “special” it feels extra important to remember that THIS TOO is beautiful.
WE ARE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO SHARE WITH OTHERS.
Our neighbors got homemade Christmas cookies and a little note, and we had some really sweet conversations out of it. It’s a gift (as our language grows) to get to know these wonderful families around us. It reminds us that even in our differences, we aren’t so different after all.
WE ARE CELEBRATING OUR DIVERSITY.
Around our small Christmas table this year we counted 5 countries of origin (out of 8 people). And as adults, that same group has lived in at least 8 (additional) different countries. I didn’t even ask how many more we all have traveled to and spent chunks of time working in. We’d probably cover a good chunk of the globe with that. And at least in that one moment, we gathered here, in a country that’s not our own… bound by a shared message of hope that makes us family. There’s a real beauty in that unique tapestry.
WE ARE LOOKING AHEAD.
Collectively, we hope 2022 will bring some relief from the grief and loneliness and suffering of the last two years. As we come to the end of a difficult, stretching year, I know many of us are looking for simple reasons to hope. And as our pastor shared with us this week, “We HAVE HOPE. Not in a vaccine, or things turning out like we want, or the economy suddenly turning around. We have HOPE in a God who came to be WITH US.”
Christmas found us yet again on a different continent, in a different part of the world, with new traditions forming and no heat on Christmas morning (and workers coming in and out trying to at least temporarily fix it for our guests coming in the afternoon.) But that’s ok. These holidays aren’t perfect – and doesn’t that make it perfectly normal anyway?
Find joy in the journey of it. Celebrate the new dance. And look for ways to see God’s presence WITH YOU in this coming year. We’re looking for it with you.