"Christmas without my family for the first time in 24 years."
by: Che Gardner
This lingering thought haunted me over and over again as the plane carried me across the ocean for two years. All the things I would I miss...
Everything from decorating the tree, baking, and making gingerbread houses to the rush of shopping for, wrapping and delivering gifts. Christmas music on the radio, advertisements for toys, billboards splashed with all things red and green. My stocking, candlelight services, live nativities, and bright shiny lights. The sweet smell of waffles and omelettes first thing in the morning, a birthday cake for Jesus and Christmas night at the movie theatre. I will even miss the thought getting offended every time someone says, "Happy Holidays," instead of, "Merry Christmas." Pictures with Santa. Wait, no Santa this year? All of it. I would miss it.
11 months later, my Thanksgiving meal and the daunting December calendar were the only reminders that Christmas was just around the corner. The South Asian town I lived in was quiet during this time of year. No music. No flashing lights. No advertisements. No rush to shop. No Santa.
Initially, I didn't know what to do with the quiet of Christmas. The quiet felt like a void, but a very close friend reminded me this:
The "void" your feeling is an opportunity to cherish Christmas for the simplicity that it truly is... Jesus touching Earth.
This Christmas was not about stressful to-do lists or demands. I had the opportunity to make this Christmas purely and simply about Jesus.
We made new, unique Christmas memories that year.
We offered the love of Jesus through hospitality to our neighbor women with a cup of Chai tea. We had programs at the local schools to bring the Good News and illustrate the gift of Jesus. We woke up on Christmas morning and spent time in the divine silence and presence of God, thanking Jesus for making a way for us to have a relationship with Him.
The quiet was serene. It brought focus and peace into a typically busy season. I knew after this Christmas that I wanted my family to experience the simplicity and charm of a quiet Christmas.
I hope the same for you.
Let's start now, together.
Let's choose to position our heart and soul on the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus touching Earth.
Let's not get wound up in the stress of the festivities.
Let's slow down and enjoy our families, and one another.
Maybe now you're wondering how to do this because your circumstances haven't changed since you began reading this article...
Now that I'm happily married with two children of my own, we've invested in ways to enjoy this season, while keeping our focus away from ourselves and on others, and most importantly the birth of Jesus.
5 simple ways we embrace a quiet Christmas:
You will find us ringing bells for Salvation Army as a family because focusing on others is what Jesus would do.
You will find my daughter, Clara, breaking apart a paper prayer chain every night leading up to Christmas with the name of a person to pray for.
You will find us at a local nativity taking in the humble scene of our Savior coming for us. (Last year, Clara asked to see Jesus in the manger every night. We went 22 times!)
You will find us reading the Christmas story every night as we count down the days until Jesus' birthday.
You will find us baking and decorating a cake with frosting and sprinkles to celebrate the birth of the One who brought Heaven to Earth.
These simple traditions ensure that we are spending time together as a family, serving others and embracing all that God intended Christmas to be!
Today, I am thanking Jesus that a quiet Christmas in South Asia brought simplicity and simplicity ushered in His presence that has transformed this precious season of worship.
Wishing you a quiet Christmas this year!
About the Author: Ché Gardner is a follower of Jesus, a wife to an amazing hubby, and a mommy to two adorable children. Her joys in life are seeing others find healing in Jesus, crawling around on the floor with her kiddos and dinner dates with her hubby. Engaging others with the Gospel, loving people that are different from her and spending time mentoring younger girls bring happiness to her days. Ché served overseas for two years in South Asia, worked at Liberty University for three years leading students on international trips, and is currently loving the interns in the Crossroads Discipleship House (CDH) in Anderson, SC.