Focusing in on Christmas


What makes Christmas…Christmas? Since my first overseas Christmas eight years ago, I’ve wrestled with that question. In the past eight years, we’ve had eight very different but equally wonderful Christmases. There was the year we were in language school in Costa Rica and loved ones came to celebrate with us on the beach. There were the years in Ecuador with real pine trees imported to the jungle from the Andes Mountains. There was the year we were in Indonesian language school (yes, our second language school), when we decided to visit our friends on another island just because we could. There have been busy Christmas days with visits to several friends’ homes to sample their favorite Indonesian treats. There have even been a couple of good, old-fashioned, white Christmases with extended family in Colorado.

Christmas Eve service in PalangkaRaya, Indonesia, 2010. Photo by Sean Cannon.

Christmas Eve service in PalangkaRaya, Indonesia, 2010. Photo by Sean Cannon.

We’ve had sad, pathetic plastic trees and majestic real trees. We’ve had very few gifts under the tree and more gifts than we could handle. We’ve had hot, humid Christmases and bitter cold ones. We’ve had huge family gatherings on Christmas Day and quiet days with just our family of five. We’ve had homey Christmases and “vacation” Christmases.

Candle lighting time during the Christmas Eve service.  Photo by Sean Cannon.

Candle lighting time during the Christmas Eve service. Photo by Sean Cannon.

All of these crazy, unique, traditional, and non-traditional Christmases have truly been wonderful and memorable in their own way. I used to pine away for what couldn’t be and feel pretty sorry for myself when my picture of Christmas didn’t match up with the reality. This year, though, is different.
The other day, it occurred to me that I’ve had far more unusual Christmas Days than “normal” ones. As I took the time to reflect on Christmases past, I learned I can celebrate Jesus anywhere and in any way. Is Christmas about presents and trees and decorations and snow and gathering family? Those are wonderful things, but Christmas is about so much more. It’s about a Savior! It’s about Light and Hope! It’s about eternity!

This year, I’ve laid down the “ideal idol of Christmas” and chosen to focus instead on what really, truly matters on this holiday. The Messiah has come! Emmanuel! God is with us! Hosanna in the highest!

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