Holiday Prep from Asia

Holiday Prep…from Asia

Chestnuts roasting on the street corners. Smog hanging thick in the air. Receiving packages from home filled with holiday treats we miss. Small gatherings in homes, singing Christmas carols together.

These are some of the highlights that come to mind when I remember past Thanksgivings and Christmases spent overseas in a big country in Asia. 

Growing up, my family always hosted holiday gatherings. For us, the most important elements of the day always included food, leisurely remaining around the table to catch up and tell stories, doing something competitive and loud, and more food. One year, my beloved family visited my team and I in Asia for Thanksgiving. My chef of a father and I tracked down difficult-to-acquire ingredients for all he wanted to make. This included two freshly slaughtered chickens delivered to my door in place of turkey, a $60 block of imported cheddar cheese, and the use of three apartments worth of ovens. This meal shared with my family and teammates remains one of my favorite moments spent around a table to date. 

Our previous team was made up of several singles in their twenties, and two families. The country that we lived in at this time didn’t celebrate Christmas, but we found ways to make it special together. One tradition that all of us singles started was having a big Christmas sleepover. We would drag all the mattresses in our apartment into the living room, play games, watch a Christmas movie, and laugh till we drifted off to sleep. One of the families on our team also invited us to join one of their traditions, which was a Polar Express movie night. Our team leader would build a giant blanket fort in his living room, make popcorn, and we would all board the Polar Express together. 

One of the best Christmas memories that holds a treasured place in my heart and memory is when my teammates and I hosted a Christmas event where we spent the evening singing songs in English and Chinese, with both local, mountain, and foreign friends. We weren’t supposed to gather in groups like that, but during the holidays, we took this risk so we could celebrate the coming King together. Anytime we get to sing in multiple languages, it is a gift; a taste of what heaven will be like. 

As we are preparing our hearts for the coming holidays in yet another new home, in another new city and country in Asia, we find ourselves doing silly things like turning the AC up, lighting a candle, and cozying up under a blanket to pretend it feels like the Fountain Inn fall we are missing. The holidays can certainly be a time where homesickness, envy of seeing all the beautiful decorations and events my stateside friends get to enjoy, and longing for something other than what we have creeps in. 

But you know what these feelings also do? They also provide a holiday invitation to draw nearer to the Christ who came to us as a baby, vulnerable and uncomfortable, in order to create a way of finding belonging with him. Not only did he make a way, and show us how to love and pray and walk with God in this life, but He also promises to prepare a place for us. He is decking the halls of heaven for a sweet homecoming where we can all celebrate and come to the table together. 

So, while we certainly will miss family and friends who are far from us this holiday season, the traditions and team we used to have in another country, and the meals shared and fun decorations, I want to choose to see the invitations during this season this year. There is an invitation to be present where we are. There is an invitation to welcome people in, so they can experience His eternal kingdom. The country we currently live in is only 1.17% Christian, and yet, we will most likely get the chance to sing Christmas songs in three languages this year, practice the Christmas story in Chinese, and share amazing Chinese holiday food with our new community at our new church here. All of this is a gift! Right after Christmas, it is Chinese New Year, the most important Chinese holiday, so the sharing of traditions and celebrating will continue in the following months! 

Whether you get to celebrate with family or not this year, whether you get to decorate or not, enjoy all the festivities or not – don’t overlook the invitations the Father is giving to you: invitations to see Him and His people more clearly in this season, to draw near to Him and invite others to join in this, and to exalt Him for all that he has done and continues to do. He is worthy of it all. 

Lauren Henrick, guest blogger