This phrase is one that surprises me when I think of it. “Tis the Season” everything around me tells me different. All the holiday traditions I’ve grown up experiencing are nowhere to be found. There’s been no forecast of snow, no Christmas parties and lights, no outing with the family to pick the perfect tree. In fact, in a lot of ways, it hasn’t felt at all like Christmas is just two days away. I know I won’t be attending a midnight service or drinking eggnog and listening to my father read scripture while we all snuggle up on the couch in our new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve.
However; as there’s been a lack of all that’s familiar with the holidays, there’s been an abundance of the underlying reason for the season. As there has been no Christmas shopping and no business, I have been more aware of the joy that I see in those around me. Many of those who I have come to call friends here at ABC have gone home to be with family. They will spend Christmas cooking and enjoying each other’s company here in Malawi. I received many heartfelt hugs and many blessings for Christmas. This has reminded me of the little wooden block decorations that we have had up in our home for years now over the holidays. There’s one that says “Joy” one that says “Peace” and one that says “Love.” These three attributes of the holidays are certainly not lacking here in Malawi. I have felt all three in abundance over the past few weeks. I have been invited to go to Bright Vision tomorrow. This is a community-based organization that strives to promote and improve the quality of life and welfare for orphans, the chronically ill, and the elderly. It is located in a rural area outside of Lilongwe. We will go tomorrow and spend Christmas Eve there. I have also been invited to join two Malawian families on Christmas day. I will leave campus at 6:30 AM to go to church and then to the home of one of the college students. She has invited me to cook lunch with her family and spend the afternoon in their home. I will then come back and spend the evening with another family. I feel so honored to have been invited and I am looking forward to seeing some of the local traditions of Christmas. Yes, I will not be with my family during Christmas, but I feel overwhelmed by the love I have been shown here. I have been welcomed in as family in a culture that is not of my own.
Christmas truly is upon us. It is here in Malawi although it looks different than any Christmas I’ve experienced. I am reminded of the Christmas story and of that night that Mary and Joseph looked for a place to stay. There was no room in the Inn and instead, they stayed in a stable, a lowly, dirty place with the animals. It wasn’t ideal and yet this story touches my heart every year at this time. We find ourselves in circumstances and places that are out of our comfort zone. They may not be ideal based on our own desires. However; I firmly believe that in the midst of our circumstances, we are growing and learning lessons that are invaluable. I am so thankful to be here this Christmas. I am learning so many lessons from the beautiful people around me and the circumstances in which I find myself. Merry Christmas to you all and I pray you see many blessings this season and truly experience joy, peace, and love.