The Distant and Unfamiliar Christmas


This year, for the first time in my adult life, I spent Christmas away from the people I love more than anyone or anything: My family. With my nieces and nephew growing at magic-bean-stalk proportions, it becomes harder to stay away from them. FaceTime is a glorious and life giving invention that I am forever indebted to. Today I spent an hour just being with my family; I didn’t want it to end. Ro, No, and Co were off to a family Christmas thing at the Birkey’s household, but I was still able to talk with them for a little while. I love my family.

I knew, just knew, that this year, Christmas would be different. The weather is off, due to it trying to do its best blazing inferno impression. Suddenly singing, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas…” couldn’t be more true in my life. My family is missing from this extremely familial holiday. This is quite big for me as I have never been away from them for Christmas before. I thought it wouldn’t be anything big, but as I was driving around on Christmas day yesterday, I felt a deep sense of loss. I wasn’t expecting it, and it left me kinda sad.

All of these things and more made it a very different experience for me. And I’m not saying in any way that I have been overly miserable during this time. I am surrounded by people who love me and care about me, and that’s honestly more than I could have asked for. I just couldn’t help but notice how different Christmas is celebrated here in New Zealand. It honestly made me Question which brand of Christmas I was missing: The Overly merchandised, decorated, red, white, and green, Santafied Christmas…or the Christmas imagesthat births the faith I hold in a God who created me, loves me, and takes care of me.

I have to say, I was asked A LOT by friends what I was doing for Christmas…being that I wasn’t from NZ and had never experienced a “sandal Christmas.” I replied that I was spending Christmas morning with the family who put me up when I first moved here, and then I would be going to work for the rest of the day. Their demeanor would immediately change and my friends would give that look that you generally reserve to give someone after they tell you that an extreme injustice has been done to someone or thing. I wouldn’t just leave it there though, I told them the truth, which is this: I work at a Residential Facility for Youth Offenders. Kids who are societies Unknownoutcasts. They are no-bodies. Some of these youth have no one coming to see them for Christmas. No one. No calls, no in-person visits. Nothing. If I can be there, for that youth, in any way to make their day a little more special…then that is quite the gift for them. It is a special thing to help someone feel wanted and appreciated in life, even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.

Yeah Christmas wasn’t decking the halls with an ugly x-mas sweater, or sipping the eggnog, but it was still a Christmas that I will never forget. Seriously. That’s something to think about.

One thought on “The Distant and Unfamiliar Christmas

  1. Sharon Peterson

    Eric, we certainly missed you also and it wasn’t quite the same. That being said, we are so proud of you for going to a distant land to do what you felt God wanted you to do. I can see such growth in you spiritually and emotionally. You know how to look at a situation and find the good in it and that is such a gift to yourself and others. I certainly can learn from you in this aspect. You are putting into the practice the verse in Philippians 4:11 … for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Proud of you and love you so much!

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