It was Christmas Eve. I wasn’t in much of a holiday mood, though. The selection of potential gifts for our children had seemed pretty sparse in the local shops. Our artificial Christmas tree looked so pathetic cowering in its corner, and the abundant ornaments hanging from the rafters and hooked into the woven bamboo walls reminded me that our tree was too little to hold them instead of evoking special memories of past Christmases.
All day I’d been singing Christmas songs, or at least humming them to myself, but all they did was remind me of what I was missing instead of helping me focus on what I had.
The Christmas Eve worship service in the little village church hadn’t helped my mood. It had felt rote as the leaders read their worship liturgy and the congregation responded without any detectable joy. I’m sure it wasn’t as meaningless to them as it was to me, but I couldn’t rid myself of a deep, achy longing for something more like the Christmas worship gatherings of my pre-missionary years.
It really wasn’t all that bad. We’d received care packages from our parents and a church. Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care. (Well, not really. They were actually hanging by ornament hooks on the woven walls next to some of our favorite ornaments.) We’d baked and eaten dozens of Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookies in the preceding weeks. (But why did I have to keep remembering that we hadn’t been able to buy icing sugar for frosting and decorating them?) A pan of gooey Christmas-morning cinnamon rolls was rising in the fridge. We were looking forward to a Christmas Day feast with some of our teammates in the afternoon. And I knew that Christmas morning would be filled with delightful exclamations as each of us in turn opened a gift.
Still, I hurt. I wasn’t given to homesickness, and I loved this place and the people who had invited us into their community. But tonight I was a mess, and I didn’t understand why.
I reached up to wipe the sweat off my brow. Oh, yeah, that was part of it, too. It’s not supposed to be 90 degrees with about 80% humidity on Christmas Eve. It was supposed to be cold, and when I looked out my window I was supposed to see snowflakes drifting by, not twinkling stars. “White Christmas” popped into my head. (See what bad shape I was in? “White Christmas”! Not a Jesus-honoring Christmas carol!)
I’m not sure what happened next. All I remember is that instead of wiping sweat off my forehead, I was wiping tears off my cheeks. I cried away my anger, my resentment, my disappointment, my self-pity. I felt engulfed by the love of the Savior whose birth we were celebrating.
I sensed a gentle nudge to look out the window again.
A dense fog had rolled off the ocean into the valley between our mountain and the next one over. Moonlight reflected off it. My eyesight was blurry in the aftermath of all those tears, but my vision was clear. The fog glistened in the moonlight like snow. I stood in awe of the loving Father who had chosen to give me the gift of a “white” Christmas.
- For missionaries who are experiencing bouts of homesickness, that God would fill the empty spaces with His loving presence.
- For joy and creativity in celebrating Christmas in whatever ways are open to them in their ministry environment.
- For opportunities to share the significance of Christ’s first coming with those who do not yet know Him.
- For stable internet connections for gathering with family in other parts of the world.