Originally posted Dec. 20, 2012, at Be. Breathe. Believe. Republished with permission of the author.
It is December 20th.
There is no snow on the ground.
I am not snuggled up at home in Esko, Minn., grateful to be finished with finals.
I haven’t made any impromptu road trips to visit friends across the state.
My Christmas tree is all of 1.5 feet tall and is decidedly artificial, compared to the towering pine that has been chopped down and brought to our living room.
There is no brown dog sniffing around for scraps or begging to have someone scratch her head or hold her paw.
For the first time in my life, Christmas will not be spent with my parents and sisters, going to church, exchanging gifts, playing games, serving at the Christmas Day Dinner, watching movies and eating far too much delicious food for my own good.
There will be no trip to camp for the summer staff reunion for the first time in five years.
I could be sad about what I am missing out on …
It is December 20th.
Today is my final day of work before I have three weeks off — to rest, travel, celebrate and rejuvenate.
The weather outside may not be snowy, but it is a bit frightful at times! Windy, rainy and blustery days are intermixed with gorgeous sunny days that almost make me feel like it’s not actually December.
Evenings are spent snuggled up in my lovely little flat, reading, cooking, Skyping, enjoying the light of the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree that I have come to love.
Perhaps I should have said, the two-ish evenings that are not filled with Christmas parties, dinners and programs will be spent in my lovely little flat! The month of December has flown by — so many parties and festivities, tree lightings and little kids Christmas pageants have filled my evenings!
While I may not have traveled far and wide to see my friends, I have wonderful people here — my fellow Young Adults in Global Mission, my incredible host family and the friends that I have made have helped to make this Advent season rich in company and conversation. I am blessed beyond belief to have people who love me here and for the opportunity to have one of my loved ones traveling to see me for the new year. People near and far have helped make this December altogether beautiful.
Christmas will be celebrated twice — once on Dec. 24-25 and again on Jan. 6-7, due to the fact that half of my host family (myself included) is Lutheran and will celebrate according to the Western calendar, while the other half is Orthodox, so we will celebrate again in the new year. ‘Tis the season, so why not celebrate!? Good food, family time, parades (with bagpipes and drum lines!) and so much love!
Perhaps the most notable of all: I am spending Christmas in Bethlehem!
Since living here, I haven’t been able to listen to Christmas carols or read the Bible in the same way — they reference the place where I live, where I’ve visited. This is the place where it all began, where the reason for our faith came to dwell with us in a simple and humble manner.
We are told of a Bethlehem that is bustling, due to the census, streets crowded, hotels booked to the maximum capacity.
We hear of the kindness of an unnamed hotel owner who, though he has no room for them in his inn, makes room for them in the warmth of his stable.
We hear of an ordinary, yet extraordinary birth, of those who visit and sit in awe at the little miracle. The tired, young and exhausted parents whose lives have changed so drastically in such a short time, all due to the willingness to listen and trust in God.
We hear of shepherds who drop everything and go when the angels appear to them in their fields — the fields that are along my route toward the library, where we spent part of our Young Adults in Global Mission orientation and where countless others have trodden.
Christmas is coming. And so we wait, watch and wonder at the beauty of it all. Be present with those you love — though time together, the wonder of technology, and cherished memories. Be thankful for the opportunity to learn and live in this beautiful world. Enjoy the weather — whatever that may be!
And when you remember that humble stable, in the little town of Bethlehem, know that this little town is bustling yet again, making preparations as visitors, pilgrims and families pour into town. Much like your home, this city is filled with lights, delicious smells, festive carols and anticipation at the celebration of the baby Jesus, God with us, Emmanuel.
Find a link to Laura Mills’ blog Be. Breathe. Believe. at Lutheran Blogs.