It's simultaneously awesome and depressing to celebrate Christmas in a foreign (Muslim) country with no family, but two friends.
It's really great that I get to spend my first Christmas away from home with two great friends, but it's not so great that I'm away from home. It makes me feel like a little kid.
I handle most things about living overseas pretty well, I would say. The part I'm not very good at is trying to pretend that Christmas isn't happening, so that way, the pain of being away from those I love is less. It's much easier just to pretend that Christmas celebrations are skipping a year.
But Christmas doesn't work like that. It comes just the same, without packages, boxes, or bags. And even without family.
And though it really sucks to be so far away, it helps put it in perspective. Even though spending time with family, eating amazing foods, and singing Christmas songs together are amazing and good things to do, they aren't Christmas. I know, you're probably thinking, 'OK, this is where he launches into a diatribe about celebrating the "Reason for the Season," so I'm going to tune out and vomit a little bit at the overused cliche.' But you're wrong. I'm not going to talk about why it's important to remember Jesus' birth at Christmas time.
Sure, it's important to remember. But perhaps something more important to remember would be the cross. We can't look at the manger without remembering the cross.
While millions of people celebrate a day for family, good food, and presents, remember that those should just be pointers to the bloody and tear-stained cross where that little Baby was brutally slaughtered for us wretches.
And remembering that, helps me to know that even though Christmas is very, very different from what I'm used to, I'm celebrating it in, perhaps, a more authentic way than ever before. And while I'm away from family and friends, I'm not away from a deeper love. Which is more comforting than I had realized on this not-so-normal Christmas.