Two Worlds of Christmas

Being home in the U.S. for Christmas means we get to spend it with friends and family that we don't often get to see.  This is the highlight of any home assignment/furlough for us.
But it is definitely 'different'.

We have stepped outside of our U.S. traditions, and our U.S. lifestyle and have become accustomed to a new life style, that we have crafted because we do not have family around us overseas.  Our first Christmas overseas had the potential to be sad.  But it wasn't!  Several things conspired (as we sat by the fire) to make it unique and wonderful.  Over the years, that new lifestyle has become comfortable to us.

Which, has the unfortunate side effect of making our old lifestyle, uncomfortable for us.  Specifically when it comes to Christmas.

Overseas, we don't have t.v. advertisements, nor signs that say '10 days of shopping left until Christmas'.
We don't have the hustle nor the bustle.

We miss the Christmas traditions which we can't do in the U.S. (or find it very difficult to do), and so it leaves us feeling a little, out of place.  But, that feeling is comforted easily by the fact that we're spending Christmas with family in their way of doing things, and it too is unique and enjoyable and good. 

It's hard to explain the sentiment of 'different but good'.  Difference makes us uncomfortable, but goodness makes us happy.  It's an awkward type of good, where we don't know exactly what is expected of us or exactly how to behave, but we're happy just being there. 

I write this because part of this blog is explaining the lifestyle of a missionary.

Christmas is good, but different.  Not entirely new, many things are old and familiar, but still different, and yet, many things are new.  Kids are older, grandparents are no longer with us, people are married, new children were brought into the world.  So there is newness to it as well.

If I had to pin down the single difference, it would be that in the U.S. it feels as if people are less accessible.  For whatever reason, maybe they're too busy, or they have too many distractions, but it is a rarity that you sit down with someone, and just talk, for however long you have to talk, about important and serious things.  To pray for one another, to uplift one another.  It just, doesn't happen very often at all.  We've been in the U.S. for nearly 6 months now, and there are still a great many people we haven't been able to see because schedules conflict.  Either we're on the road speaking at places, or they're busy with their lives.  It is very hard to re-insert yourself into lives you've willingly stepped out of.  It's our own doing we know.

We miss visiting.  I mean real let-the-dishes-sit-for-a-while-whilst-we-chat, visiting.

In Ukarumpa this happens regularly.  Never so much as around Christmas.
Christmas eve, we get together with friends, and go to church.
Christmas day, we have a few friends over and they stay, through brunch and dinner.  They stay until the sun goes down and we just visit.  I mean we play games, throw the football, sit and talk, laugh, eat, kids playing, it's an all day thing... and you never really want it to end.  I often plan events for the kids for when they seem to get bored, magic tricks, games, etc.  We're talking marathon visits here, not just a few hours.

Then, the next day, boxing day, we do it all again with different friends.
Christmas for us, is an entire week of non-stop visiting with people.

There is an edge to being overseas that makes people more prone to opening up quickly to people they trust.  Perhaps it's the fact that people come and go quickly, but you can't really afford a 'warming up period.'  You can't waste time talking about weather and traffic (two topics which are extremely dull in a tropical environment where there is no traffic and the weather never changed.), you have no where to go but right to meaty issues that matter.

I'm not complaining about Christmas in the U.S. at all.  Please do not see this as a judgement or a complaint.  Had we never left for overseas, I'm certain we'd never even notice a difference at all.  I'm trying to share insight with you about our view on Christmas.

In the U.S. we have more awesomeness to behold.  Cool lights, nice treats, yummy drinks, christmas music on the radio,  good family and friends, and more gifts to give and receive, it's awesome.  We have become accustomed to chatting with people for hours, but in the U.S. that doesn't happen as often, life is just in the way.  Fair trade?  You decide.  For us, it is very hard to like one way more than the other.  Ask our kids.  If they could have our family, over in PNG, life would be perfect for them. (-;  The best of both worlds, combined!

Overseas, we have a more subdued, quiet Christmas.  For some that may seem really boring, we find it delightful.

This Christmas, I would challenge you to have a really good conversation with someone about important things that matter to you, make a deeper connection with someone.  I think that will enhance your Christmas time. 

Christ came to earth and became human, and part of being human is connecting through relationships.  He grew up and told us to love one another.  Love is truly the only thing that reaches through all the garbage of life and makes change happen.  It is more than how you feel towards someone, but also how you act.  It is listening to each others' burdens, encouraging one another and praying for one another.  It's sharing enough life experience together that you have a lot of inside jokes, and fond memories.

This Christmas, just love on somebody, the way Christ would.  It'll wash away all the silliness we put ourselves through at Christmas and really get down to the importance of it.  What better time to show someone love than on Christmas?