Christmas in Laos is subtle. Everyday I forget that Christmas is coming, and then every day Jennie and I look at each other and say, “Oh yeah! Christmas.” I love the holiday here because it doesn’t slap me across the face every time I walk into a mall, or demand my attention through shopping lists, talking Santas, or radio advertisements. There are no decorations to speak of, there are palm trees in view from the back porch, and the weather is still warm enough to break a sweat. I won’t even hear festive music unless I turn it on or sing it.
Christmas is quiet, hidden. It’s there for those who know where to look; otherwise the rest of the country will go about the day in normal working fashion. It reminds me of the first Christmas, shared only by those who had the ears to hear and believe angels, the foolhardiness to follow a star, and the eyes to look for a little bundle tucked away in a hole in the earth. It’s a day, in many ways like any other, to pause and remember, to be grateful for Immanuel—God with us.
Many of my friends call me a scrooge; and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always have the fondest feelings for Christmas. But I don’t hate Christmas. I just don’t like it western style. I prefer the subtlety, raw beauty and awe with all the clamoring bells and whistles stripped off. So this year I think I’ll be stopping to enjoy it. Jennie, Eric and I will get creative in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, and Christmas day we’ll stay in our pajamas, share simple gifts with the kids, keep the gate locked, and watch holiday movies. It may just be the quintessential holiday.
For all of you at home, of course I miss you. I’ll miss digging for costumes with my siblings for our living nativity Christmas morning. I’ll miss eggnog and conversations by the fireplace. Your smiles and hugs. Snow. I’ll even miss my helping of sweet potato casserole. But I won’t miss the clamor or piles of wrapping paper. I’ll think of you all tucked in snuggly with your families and my heart will assure you that I will be home soon… but not quite yet. And I’ll wish you all a Merry Christmas—in the subtlest of ways.