What Does Christmas Look Like?

When I was a kid, Christmas looked like lots of snow and cold, frosty mornings. It meant practicing for Sundays on end for our Christmas cantata, a new Christmas dress from my grandma. There was the anticipation of waking up to find my dad’s old socks which doubled as stockings filled with treats, waiting while my dad finished chores to open presents. There were little boxes of cereal and cran-apple juice for our Christmas breakfast, new toys to play with and new books to read.

Later Christmas looked like sweet family time, my siblings and I happily squished together in the girls’ room for a Christmas Eve sleepover. The socks got replaced with stockings with our names on them, and the Christmas story read all together as a family took on deeper meaning. There were still presents, still little boxes of cereal and carols sung by candlelight at the Christmas Eve service. But Christmas was about Jesus and family and celebration.

Now, Christmas looks very different. Take away the snow, the stockings, the cran-apple juice, and add thousands of miles in between my family and me, and what is left? This year with everything else stripped away, there is more Jesus. I miss all those things, but I am able to see more clearly this year the beauty of God’s gift, how God prepared the way through all the prophets and servants He used to show the need of a Savior. Oh, I most certainly miss my family, our sweet traditions, and I can’t listen to Silent Night quite yet because it reminds of the special moment of the lights turned off and the glowing candlelight shining in the faces of dear friends at my church. I EVEN miss the snow and below zero weather, and so I treasure the days here when a cardigan is necessary. But I am seeing Jesus in a new way, seeing His coming through fresh eyes. In this Advent season I am more aware of my need for Him, filled with joy in the anticipation of His second coming, and praying for new ways to see the beauty of the gift of His first coming.

I am also thankful for sweet blessings here that make the familiar seem not so far away: 
1) A sweet little tree that fits perfectly in the corner
2) A celebration with friends of Thanksgiving and Advent, how it all fits together because without Jesus we could not give thanks
3) A Christmas concert with familiar carols, put on by an expat choir in Phnom Penh, and the beauty of singing Joy to the World all together 
4) The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, invitations to study the story of Christmas in a new and deeper way, serving as encouragement on this side of the ocean
5) Advent sermons online 

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