Missing Christmas

If I being honest with myself I would have to admit that I’m really missing home this Christmas. Managua is bathed in Christmas lights and many Catholics already started the celebration on the 7th with the Immaculate Conception of Mary (LOTS of fireworks), but the weather here is still hot and there’s no Chrismas cookies or spiced apple cider. While there is a richness in experiencing Christmas in a new culture, I yearn for the familiar and miss that special family time that Christmas always brings.

This of course is very normal, and I think anyone who has been away from home or lived in a different culture experiences the most homesickness during the holidays and times of celebration. I think I’m now understanding better why so many of the families that I worked with in school over the past three years decided to pack the family into a van and drive back to Mexico or fly to Puerto Rico over Christmas, even though Christmas break is sometimes less than two weeks long. I believe there is true richness in our traditions and each part of the world has their own special holidays and ways of celebrating that are unique and meaningful especially to those from that particular culture.

While times with family are greatly missed, it is refreshing not to be bombarded by advertising and a consumerist culture that tells you your Christmas will only be worthwhile if you get everything you want. It is freeing to be unplugged from the machine that wants to convince you that love is expressed through diamond necklaces and that you’ll only be satisfied if you possess the newest and nicest of whatever they are trying to sell you.

However, as Christians, we all try to remind each other of the real “reason for the season” and I think that is what I really feel is lacking, even here with the churches in Nicaragua. The church here, at least the churches we’re in touch with, seem to be pushing Christmas aside altogether. Recognizing the secular traditions of the holiday, the fact that Jesus really wasn’t born on December 25, and that we should be celebrating Jesus all year round, “Navidad” hasn’t been mentioned once in any of the church services we’ve been regularly attending for the last three months. While I agree with all those things, I realize I’m missing that special focus that we give to Jesus’ birth at Christmas time. I’m missing that incredible sense of advent anticipation, the yearning for a savior, for someone who will make things right. I miss the reminder that God has come to live among us, the reminder that God has done and is doing new and wonderous things. I think I need that jolt of hope to continue on in the midst of suffering, not just the suffering that I see on a daily basis here in Nicaragua, but also the suffering that is happening all over the world on large and small scales and jumps off the computer screen at me every time I look at the NY Times.

But Christmas is, more than anything else, a time for hope. A time to remember that the Savior has come and we can now join in the work of constructing God’s kingdom. I don’t think I can say it any better than it has already said in many of the hymns we sing at this time of year and I find lots of comfort and hope in hymns (even if I don’t know how to sing them). Comfort, Comfort, O my people has been on my mind the most this Christmas so I’ll leave the first verse here with you all:

Comfort, Comfort, O my people, speak of peace now says our God.

Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning beneath their sorrows’ load.

Speak of the New Jerusalem, of the peace that waits for them.

Tell of all the sins I’ve cover, and that warfare now is over.

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3 Comments on “Missing Christmas”

  1. Peg Engle Says:

    Thanks, Adam, for sharing your reflections and for offering these words of challenge and hope to me!

  2. Rocio Says:

    Hey Adam I know exactly how your feeling I miss home alot especially with it being Christmas hearing from family and friends back home makes it all the more difficult but you have to say strong always remember that if you want to talk I am here and were in this together were a team no matter the distance. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

  3. eep6 Says:

    I’m late in commenting, but I think part of what you’re seeing in protestant churches in Latin America is a historical rejection of the liturgical traditions of the Catholic church. The liturgical calendar, which a lot of Mennonite churches seem to have re-adopted (after a long history of rejecting them as well), has a very deliberate focus on Advent and building the sense of anticipation of Christmas as well. It could be that the churches you relate to in Nicaragua are avoiding over-emphasis of Christmas as part of maintaining a Protestant Christian identity.

    Just anecdotally, when my mom was growing up in Peru they would exchange Christmas cards – but never a card with a picture of a candle on it, because candles were “too Catholic.” Just an indication of how deep the Catholic/Protestant split has been in Latin America.

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