For one of our cross-cultural workers, the wonder of Christmas is that it comes even though it isn’t wrapped in childhood memories.
One warm Christmas Eve . . .
This still doesn’t make sense to my Midwest American senses. Most of my memories of Christmas Eve involve cold weather. Bundling up to go caroling and returning to drink hot chocolate and eat Christmas cookies, going to the Christmas Eve service at church, having soup and homemade bread for dinner, followed by a drive to look at all the Christmas lights on the neighboring houses. Always with family, friends, good food and music.
But here in Indonesia, we have definitely experienced the Christmases that you hear about from someone else’s exotic vacation—sunny blue skies, tropical breezes, swimming, drinking cold lemonade. We enjoy salad and ice cream on a warm Christmas day, wear flip flops and tank tops, celebrate with the local people and with new, and often, very different food.
Last Christmas – our second here – we broke down and bought a fake Christmas tree. This was tough for me since I grew up with a fresh-cut tree every Christmas, so I embraced yet another change in our celebrations. As we welcomed a new family to the field and helped them get settled right before the Christmas season, we lamented the fact that they were celebrating their first Christmas in a place that wouldn’t even be their home a few weeks later.
We discussed various changes that we would experience during the season as we were away from “home.” As we talked about missing Christmas traditions in different parts of the world, my new friend gently stopped me with a poignant question: “Isn’t Christmas really about focusing on Jesus . . . no matter what?”
Needless to say, wherever we are in the world – America, Germany, Indonesia or anyplace in between – we take joy in knowing that once again we can celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ (as well as his life, death, resurrection and triumph over sin and death)!
Despite the company, the weather, the traditions, songs, foods or type of tree, we can still choose to celebrate the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ! We pray this will always be our attitude for this season of Advent.