Christmas reveals to me that I am a seeker. There’s something about this season that unveils the longings of my soul like no other holiday. Perhaps that’s because I have been taught that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve been informed by holiday ditties that dreams come true and everything goes well at Christmastime. So, each year at Christmas I learn what my heart currently defines as “wonderful”—what I am seeking.
The Christmases of most of my childhood were not snowy or glittery—we lived in a large equatorial city in South America and spent the holidays closer to a fan than to a fire. Celebrating so far from their home country, my parents had the flexibility to create their own Christmas traditions. They often made room at our table to share chicken dinner with single cross-cultural workers. Sometimes we took gifts to the neighbours or the poor. But I often remember Christmas holding a twinge of sadness for me—an element of longing—because I didn’t get all the gifts I hoped for.
What I sought from Christmas was revealed: I wanted joy, and I wanted to find it through stuff…because isn’t that what you do at Christmas?
After leaving home, I spent quite a few adult Christmases in Canada, my parents’ home country. My parents were still working in South America, so my siblings and I would have our own little celebrations in Canada. Usually we would encroach on the holiday celebrations of relatives and friends too, trusting their turkey roasting skills more than our own.
As we spent time with other families, I would sometimes come home wishing my family could be more like theirs. They didn’t seem to annoy or frustrate each other like we did (though of course, now I’ve realized that every family has its own failings).
What I sought from Christmas was revealed: I wanted peace, and I wanted to find it in my family…because isn’t that what you do at Christmas?
Then, in my late twenties, I spent a few Christmases in a dusty corner of Asia where Christmas was just an ordinary day. Many there barely knew the distinction between Santa and Baby Jesus. The smoky grey haze over our city was not coming from chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and if my vegetarian neighbours had known I craved turkey that day, they may have been dismayed. By my second Christmas there, I was enamoured by a certain man in Europe, who was planning to visit me a month after Christmas. We spent hours on Skype together on Christmas Eve.
What I sought from Christmas was revealed: I wanted love, and I wanted to find it through marriage to a kind man…because isn’t that what would make for better Christmases?
It wasn’t wrong to want nice gifts, a united family or a doting husband, but Christmas showed me that I often seek joy, peace and love in the wrong places. My Asian friends had gods on their walls and in their cabinets, but my gods were the people around me whom I expected to satisfy my longings.
As the first few snowflakes fell last winter, I received a wedding ring from the man who won my heart. This year we will celebrate our second Christmas in Germany. German Christmases are picture perfect. There are advent calendars, handmade ornaments and gingerbread cookies. There are Christmas markets where we can while away chilly evenings eating crepes and drinking cider served from rustic wooden stalls. After Asia, it has been a joy to live somewhere where Christmas is celebrated in a way I can relate to, while still being refreshingly less gaudy than a North American Christmas
This Christmas, I can have what I have sought. Do I want the perfect gift? I just need to coax my husband into buying it. Do I want a peaceful family? Well, there are only two of us in this nest and my husband is not ornery. Do I want love? I’m now married to Mr. Wonderful. But is that the joy, peace and love that we seek at Christmas? Joy, peace and love that is built merely on human performance fails as soon as someone fails to meet our expectations.
My earthly holidays will forever be filled with longing. Our family’s hearts are spread all over the world: his family in various places, mine in others, and our friends scattered abroad. Gifts will break, new experiences will become humdrum and the family we build might even squabble on Christmas Day. But if I listen to my longings, I realize that I long for something much deeper—everlasting joy, peace and love.
Under the wrapping paper, between the turkey and the tree, tucked behind the ornaments, I have found the One whom I seek. His joy is unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8). His peace is perfect (Isaiah 26:3). His love is immeasurable (Eph. 3:18). When my holiday it focused around seeking Him, I can better enjoy the people around me, too.
Christmas reveals to me more than just that I am a seeker. It reveals to me where or in whom I have sought to find joy, peace and love. It gives me the opportunity to redirect my seeking heart to find lasting satisfaction in Christ. His name is wonderful, and only He makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year!
Where do you see Jesus seeking you this season? What helps you seek Him?