Sunday, December 23, 2007

The True Christmas Spirit

Some friends sent me an email asking me about Christmas here on Guam. It prompted this response which I then thought our “blog readers” might enjoy.

Imagine someone saying to you, “Since your birthday is in winter and we want to have a summer party, let’s just pretend your birthday is on some arbitrary date in the summer and we'll send out invitations and not say anything to any of the guests and no one will be the wiser. We'll have a wonderful birthday party.” Well, if you did this, you would know in your heart that it wasn't REALLY your birthday and it would somehow take away from how your birthday normally feels, right? Well, that's how I feel about Christmas. It seems like we are just "pretending" it is Christmas, that it's really not for another six months, when it will be winter and cold. I honestly feel like we are doing an "un-Christmas" (you know, an "un-birthday"--your birthday six months past your actual birthday). I try to play Christmas music and we have a Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments but still, I don’t feel like it is Christmas. (By the way, the photo shows us having just arrived home from buying our tree. It is 5:30 p.m., 91 degrees with humidity in the high 80’s.) It's kind of a bummer and I feel like, to some degree, I'm being bad spiritually because Christmas is about Jesus' birth not all the other stuff. But, it doesn't feel like Jesus' birth. I think it was probably kind of cold the night of his birth and it's NEVER cold here (except when someone has the air conditioner on too high). So, when you ask me about Christmas here, I would say I feel like a robot--"doing" Christmas things but not feeling Christmassy at all--ZERO! LITERALLY! Nothing is coming naturally. Without the Christmas feeling to guide me, I have to stop and say to myself, "Okay, what other things do people normally do at Christmas? Oh yeah, we need to make some cookies.” Or, “Oh yeah, I need to make sure I send Christmas cards--what is the date anyhow?" I'm not sad about this because I really feel no loss because it honestly doesn't feel like Christmas! It is bizarre. I think it's connected not just to the different weather but the different culture and conditions. Eric not pastoring a church also plays a big part. You figure the church has ALWAYS consumed a HUGE amount of our time and Christmas energy (e.g. choir rehearsals, celebrations, decorations, partying, parishioner crisis’s to deal with, etc.). Also, the buying frenzy and panic that is so pervasive around the holidays isn't nearly as pronounced here. That part I LOVE! I have always dreaded the present buying pressure of Christmas and it's GREAT not to have that for the first time EVER. But, on the flip side, it’s sad to say that that horrible pressure-feeling is very much tied into how Christmas has always FELT. So, here is another reason it does not FEEL like Christmas here.

On the practical side, we have bought the girls bicycles (we had to leave theirs in the States because they couldn't fit into the cargo container) and we bought Christian scuba diving lessons (fairly inexpensive here when you have connections!). The kids will be thrilled because they have very low expectations. Amazingly, they seem to really understand our new financial status and the limitations that presents for us. They NEVER ask to go to McDonalds, ice cream, etc., nor do they EVER ask for anything. I think they have accepted without resentment the way we need to live. The amazing thing is we are all more content materially than we have ever been. I'm not sure if it is that God has given us His contentment, or if it is because we live in a less materialistic place and so don't know what we're missing!!! (Or perhaps a combination of the two)

Guess what? Since I originally wrote this, I have felt the “Christmas spirit” on two occasions. Interestingly, both occasions were while singing Christmas carols during worship--once in church, and once at PIBC. As I sang, I was overcome with such a strong feeling of gratitude and praise. How grateful I am that our mighty and powerful Jesus humbled himself and came as a babe to give new life to me. How happy I am that He loves me and even knows the number of hairs on my head (or even cares about it!). As I reflected on these two “Christmas-feeling encounters,” I realized that no matter where I am in our big world, even if I don’t FEEL the “Christmas spirit,” I can always feel “Jesus’ Spirit.” That’s great news because, after all, isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?

Merry Christmas and glory to God in the highest!



Linda said...

Karyn- I so enjoy your comments and thoughts. I think God is giving you a fresh look at what Christmas really is without all the usual trimmings. God is good and gives us what we need. Will be excited to hear about your New Years as you new culture is bringing new experiences to all of us. Happy New Year!

Tina said...

Hi Karyn,

I too enjoy reading about your adventures on the island I grew up on. It is a bit strange but yet refreshing to read your fresh perspective about life on Guam. I guess I once looked at life in California in a similar way.

Thank your for going to Guam and choosing to bring Christ to those on the island. You are an answer to prayer for me.

May God continue to protect and provide for your family.