I wanted to share some thoughts about the holidays that are also mentioned in my December newsletter back home. Enjoy!
As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve and I can’t help but look back on what December has brought my way here in Tenom. I remember thinking on the airplane back from the YAGM Malaysia November retreat that a small part of me dreaded the holidays. I had been trying to tell myself to let go and see what happens around me, but I still had this nagging feeling that the holidays would make homesickness a challenge. But I kept telling myself to stop focusing on what I was missing. This might be a whole new kind of Christmas if I would just allow myself to be in the moment of everything around me.
While in college I worked as a camp counselor at Lutheridge in Arden, NC. Every year we would celebrate Christmas in July week. Though the summer temperatures would soar and there was no snow or any of the other commercialism that comes with Christmas, at the end of the week, we would celebrate Christmas Eve and it would feel just as amazing as Christmas in December. In some ways, I have realized that celebrating Christmas in July prepared me for celebrating Christmas in Sabah.
There’s a great deal less commercialism that comes with the holidays here in Tenom. Ok, G-Mart and Bestamart, the two supermarkets in town put up decorations around December 1st and there are decorations is a few of the stores, but I have come to appreciate not being bombarded by commercials. The temperatures still feel like summer and there’s no chance of a white Christmas (no matter how many times the youth sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”). But I have come to realize that having all my expectations for what Christmas should be wiped clean has made room for me to appreciate how we celebrate in Tenom in a whole new way.
As we’ve planned events and celebrated in anticipation at church, I have come to see the family that has built up around me. In the absence of the mad Christmas rush and the routine of traditions that I’m used to, I’ve found some God moments in the Advent season that add deeper meaning to the celebrations. At first I missed the Christmas ‘buzz’ that surrounded the month of December, but I’ve found moments of joy with my community that have grown to fill the days.
I started this month feeling a nagging dread that I was not going to enjoy the holidays as much, but that dread has turned to joy and anticipation. This journey has truly been God’s way of stepping in and providing a peace that I needed. So with this peace, I look forward to celebrating Immanuel the gift of Christ to the world. May you experience God with you this Christmas and throughout the year. Peace!