This Christmas, as a global nomad, joy looked like…
… being able to decorate the same house for Christmas two years in row (we’ve moved a few times the last two years so this was a sweet gift)
…having both sets of grandparents visit us during the holidays
…receiving packages from dear friends with pumpkin spice coffee, peppermint candy canes, clothes, stickers, red and green chocolate chips — so. much. love!
…opening up our home to friends from all over the world for our traditional chocolate fondue
…baking Christmas cookies with fellow TCK buddies
…doing a cookout at the park with grandparents
…fall and winter scented candles that made home in the US feel a little closer
…practicing Advent with our girls
…slowly rebuilding our Christmas ornament collection with handmade, bought and gifted ornaments (because we didn’t bring any from the US)
…going to the zoo in 80’s weather
…holding Wes – I carried him inside me most of the year and the thrill of having him in my arms doesn’t get old.
…listening to City of David by Gray Havens and Emmanuel by Caroline Cobb
…being able to drink dairy free hot chocolate mix from clean ingredients (not always easy to find here – especially clean coconut powdered milk !)
…Feasting with fellow expats in our home even if the reason for feasting is that two of them are moving away.
…enjoying rain in the desert after 8 months of no rain.
But in the paradox of life we know joy co-exists with sorrow…
…Wesley began his first Christmas throwing up and ended the day at the hospital getting checked for a fever and a cough (thankful it wasn’t pneumonia)
…having my parents here for Christmas meant my family in the DR didn’t get to be with them
…sending Christmas gifts back with grandparents to sisters and brothers and niece and nephew meant one more Christmas that we are not together
…enjoying amazing weather here means missing snow there
…living in a country where the majority of people don’t celebrate Christmas is a tangible reminder I don’t live in my birth country nor my passport country (which are not the same for me!).
…we are moving in 4.5 months which means this is not only our second Christmas in the same house and same city but also our last.
…every time we enjoy sweet community here we are painfully reminded we are soon leaving community behind once more. Ethan and I find ourselves mourning this often.
…the day after Christmas I hugged my parents goodbye, with my heart breaking & tears flowing as I did so.
Paradox at Christmas is just as it should be. Christ’s first coming was filled with paradox. When Simeon saw Christ in the temple, he both rejoiced and prophesied sorrow. Even as he praised God when he saw the long awaited salvation of God’s people, he also told Mary that this baby that she had just delivered, and who would deliver her, would do so at a great cost to her. “A sword will pierce through your own soul.” The same baby would bring judgement to some and exaltation to others (Luke 2: 34-35).
His second coming will also be filled with paradox. What will mean glory for all those who have longed for his appearing, will mean wailing for those who pierced him. While His children sing, His enemies will bow in terror (Rev. 1: 7).
Growing up, Christmas was such a joy but once death entered our family through the death of my grandpa & later my cousin’s, Christmases were never the same. Since then, unfulfilled desires, sickness, separation from loved ones and homesickness have been unwanted guests that expose brokenness especially at Christmas.
I am so glad we practiced Advent again this year. For the first time in a long time I did not resent that Christmas was polluted with grief. It just heightened the reality that I am a woman in waiting. The small story of my life is simply joining the history of the world. I am doing what history has always been doing: groaning as it waits for one of the two comings of Jesus.
The beauty and comfort of being one with Christ is that I am not on my own as I wait for Christ’s return. Emmanuel, God with us, has come. And through His Spirit, He has come to me. By taking on flesh, Jesus took on my sins and my sorrows and made them His very own. As I wait, I do so knowing He is for me and with me.
“We can’t be reminded enough that though Christ is physically present in heaven, he is spiritually present with all those who are in him (1 John 5: 20). To belong to Christ means to have His Spirit, and to have His Spirit means having the risen, ascended, reigning Christ within you, wherever you are.” (Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ)
Practicing Advent helped me to fix my gaze – and my hope- past Christmas to the Resurrection and the return of my King and Brother. The deep desire of my heart is that Jesus is known, loved and worshiped all over the world. Because I love Him, I hasten his return by living a godly and holy life wherever I am (2 Peter 3: 12).
Christmas is a joy not because it is filled with undiluted joy. It is a joy because it testifies that just as the Incarnation truly happened, He is certainly coming back again. Because of Christmas, I am waiting for and hastening the coming of Resurrection in clouds of great glory.
What were some of the paradoxes of your life this Christmas? What are specific ways that the return of Christ comforts you, emboldens you and gives you hope as you live in paradox?
Picture by Ginger Ivey Photography