I had a surprisingly lovely Christmas this year, full of laughter and love.
One of the most wonderful moments was walking home in the snow by myself late Christmas Eve after a party with friends. I caught white snowflakes on my new black gloves and marveled at the endless creativity of God. For the brief moments they are alive, each snowflake gets to be unique, each intentionally created.
When I was a kid, Christmas was the most exciting day of the year.
Hearing my 9-year-old sister’s account of her Christmas last night reminded me. I’d forgotten the waking up super early, the itching to go downstairs but resisting, the not understanding why your parents don’t seem to want to get out of bed at 6am. Back then, there was nothing more thrilling.
When I got older, Christmas became burdensome. Christmas shopping, making sure I got appropriate gifts for each family member, trekking to four different houses in the course of one day for at least three huge meals…it was a bit exhausting.
When I was living on my own, Christmas became something I looked forward to again. A reason to see family, the familiar Christmas hymns, laughing at the outrageous excitement of my little siblings racing to the tree, meditating on mystery of Jesus’ birth.
Now living abroad, Christmas has become something I don’t know how to celebrate. Or so I feared.
This year, I worried that Christmas would simply be a reminder of everyone I couldn’t be with and all the things I was missing out on (Advent, sugar cookie baking, hymns at the piano, homemade feasts, and reading the Christmas account aloud as a family). I anticipated a time of loneliness and self-pity.
Instead, I found myself thankful.
Thankful for the smiles of friends and the hospitality of strangers. Thankful for unexpected gifts and the simple joy of sharing food. Grateful for the God of grace who, even when I don’t spend much time with Him on the day that is supposed to celebrate His Son’s birth, continually shows me He loves me, in the beauty of snowflakes and in the faces of those who surround me.