The Christmas season in Korea was sometimes strange. When you live in a country where Christmas isn’t your greatest, most significant holiday, you have to dig deeper to sense that “Christmas spirit.” Occasionally I would hear music in a coffee shop or a store and out of the blur of Korean words there would suddenly be “Christmas!” or I would hear an occasional “jingle bells!” in the lyrics and know this was a festive tune. Besides the huge tree of lights in the traffic circle or festive advertising in the department store, the Christmas season just sortof brushed me by and then all of a sudden it was Christmas Eve, and I was working. The season wasn’t all entirely devoid of cheer. I read an Advent devotional for the first time. I listened to “O come, O come Emmanuel” more times than I ever have. One of my friends in community group pointed out that it’s kinda nice to live in a culture that doesn’t amplify the outward appearance of Christmas as much, or give so much attention to preparations and festivities and the intense blur that Christmas can be in the States. Since I had to make it “feel” like Christmas for myself, it caused me to ponder a lot about what really makes Christmas feel like Christmas. It was such a rich season of Advent, of waiting and anticipating the coming of Christ’s birth as we wait and anticipate His eternal coming.
To help make Christmas Eve and Day as special as we could, Courtney and I planned a celebratory getaway on the Masan coast, about a 40 minute drive from where we live in Changwon. As you probably know, I live on the bottom of Korea- close to the south east corner. The coast is just over the ridge of mountains that you can see from my apartment window! Five friends stayed in a little cabin that looked out over the bay and the mountains and it was peaceful and full of goodness.
After the Christmas Eve service at church we loaded up our bags, a giant box of food, and a small christmas tree into two separate taxis. Yes, I literally just shoved a christmas tree into the back of a taxi. We arrived late at night, and after turning on the heated blankets and hanging christmas lights and settling in, Courtney started sharing that she had her Christmas present ready for all of us. Like water to quench a thirst, she so graciously and kindly shared why each of us are special to her. I was so humbled and struck by the power and beauty of people and relationships and affirming words. It didn’t end there. She told us that she reached out to our friends and family and…. and we sat on the floor of our cabin, huddled under thick blankets, watching our closest friends and families on her computer screen sharing memories and well-wishes from all over the US. You can believe that I cried tears of joy from a full, full heart. The greatest gift is being known, and to have those who know and care enough to prove it in beautiful ways.
Christmas day included sleeping in, waking up to the sound of sea gulls, making breakfast, skyping and meeting everyone’s families, eventually rolling out the door to explore the coast, finding starfish (!!!), watching the sun set over mountains I had hiked in the fall, making a huge dinner, laughing, drinkng mulled wine, playing games, having good conversations, and just enjoying the season, the celebration, and the gift of such an abundant life.
I never expected the emmense gift that this whole season would be, but I am grateful and joy-filled that my Creator saw it fit to give so freely. Grateful that my Savior was born that men no more may die. Grateful that because of Christmas, we have life to the full, we have peace beyond doubt and joy beyond sorrow and beyond the shadows there is a new and glorious morn.
I hope your Christmas season was filled with good things, and a deep abiding sense of peace, joy, and light.