Over the past few weeks every time I bump into Christmas décor at the stores, I have to catch a sob, while my eyes well up. This is not new. Every year for the past 8 years I feel more homesick at Christmas than any other time of year. For 28 years I experienced a really close knit strong community in the Dominican Republic. Since getting married cross culturally, life in community looked vastly different. And since moving overseas we haven’t been anywhere long enough to develop the kind of friendships I had before.
I realized recently I am fearing the loneliness of homesickness that happens around Christmas. This is our 4th Christmas overseas as a family and our 1st in our new host country. We are not only far from our families but also without a strong community because we have only been here about a month and a half. We are also currently dealing with some health issues that limit us greatly…especially in terms of hospitality and eating with people.
I feel a kick in the gut when I look ahead to next month – anticipating the all familiar feeling of not belonging, loneliness, of not being known… With this place not feeling like home yet I long for the people that do.
I am excited about making Christmas special for my little family, and yet, I still find a part of me grieving. Still grieving after all these years. Crazy, isn’t it? That with each move, grief doesn’t go away – it just gets more complex. I am not just homesick for my home country but also for the countries I’ve lived in the past 8 years.
It feels a little silly to fear homesickness. I know it won’t always be this way. I know that, with time, we will find our people here. We will figure out rhythms that will enable us to do life in community better. And yet, I still fear this sadness.
Fear around the celebration of the Incarnation is not a new thing. When the shepherds were surrounded by the angel announcing Christ’s birth, they were afraid. Glory does that sometimes – makes us afraid. We don’t always recognize it as the place where we meet His power & presence.
The same news that was meant to give them courage is the news we need to hear when we are afraid:
““Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David” (Luke 2: 10-11 HCSB).
There is such glory in the story of the Gospel. But it is a glory full of paradox: a powerful Savior becoming a helpless baby, coming to a small city that would be a blessing to all the people in the world. The Lord becoming sin so we would become His righteousness. Jesus choosing to be homesick his whole earthly life so that we could have a home with Him. The homesickness I fear is the one He felt.
Instead of fearing homesickness and grief, embracing them pushes me deeper into my Savior’s heart for me. When I find them creeping into my heart I have found a few things that comfort me and help me cope:
- Avoiding songs and movies that make me long for a reality that is not mine (years ago when I was single, it was romantic songs…now it is the ones that talk about being home, about seeing dear faces again).
- Listening to songs that celebrate the Incarnation and remind me of what IS mine in Christ: Emmanuel, God with us. A God who has welcomed me into the community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A God who tells me when I feel sad about not having “our people” here yet, “You are my people” (Isa. 51: 16). I love so many songs from Prepare Him Room by Sovereign Grace Music for this reason.
- Practicing Advent. It has helped me greatly in embracing the paradox of Christmas –joy and sorrow really do co-exist on this side of Eternity. Advent heightens the reality that we are a waiting people. The small story of our lives is simply joining the history of the world. We are doing what history has always been doing: groaning as it waits for one of the two comings of Jesus. Advent reminds me that there is One that came to welcome me into His very life and that I am looking ahead to another Advent when He will come, and “everything sad will be untrue.”
- Creating community – I don’t need to wait to be welcomed into others’ community. It reorients my heart when I plan ahead to serve others during this season: who is lonely? Who does Jesus want to love through us? There is great joy in inviting others into our Christmas traditions and home. I am excited to host our annual chocolate fondue. Wanna come?
Glory is surrounding us in so many ways, even in our homesickness, because our Savior is with us. This homesickness is a small way we complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col. 1: 24) so that others too get to hear good news of great joy.
~Lord, give us faith to see the glory of your presence and power in us and through us this holiday season. ~
What are ways you cope with the grief of homesickness over the holidays? Are there songs on the Incarnation that especially lead you to worship this season?
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