December 2016 vs December 2017
It has been a while since the last All Things New blog, but there has been a lot going on lately both personally and with ATN. Recently, however, I found myself contemplating about how different December 2017 has been and will continue to be compared to December 2016. The key word is “different” and not “better or worse” because different is the reality. If you do not keep up with ATN, then you may not know that we are spending Christmas in Jacksonville this year while we spent almost the entire month of December in Haiti in 2016. Here are some ways things are different this year:
- Last year we missed our family during the holidays, this year we are missing our kids.
- Last year there was traffic if we ever had to make a run into Port, this year there is traffic if we want to go and check our mail (this of course is sarcasm, but we do live right next to the Town Center and if you live in Jacksonville you know what this means) because everyone is out shopping for Christmas.
- Last night our family got in our rental van (Jess got rear-ended a few days ago) and drove around to look at Christmas lights. Last year, almost everyone in our surrounding area was struggling to find enough electricity to turn on their bedroom light.
- Last year almost every church in the surrounding area had a huge Christmas party and pretty much everyone was at church all day on December 25. This year, there will be very few churches that open their doors on Christmas Day. (note: This is not a negative about America, the culture in Haiti is just a very church oriented culture and the church is the center of social activity)
- This year I have already eaten more through the first 20 days of December than I did in December and January combined in Haiti.
- This year there is a comfort and ease of life being in our home country that is hard to find in Haiti and that can make Christmas more enjoyable.
- This year, however, there is also the struggle to not get caught up in what has become the most materialistic month on our calendar. In 2016, not including restaurants/gas/automobiles, holiday retail sales were over $650 billion in America.
The truth is, there are huge pros and cons to spending Christmas in either place, but we are so happy that Sophie and Elijah will spend Christmas with their families in Jacksonville and then LaGrange. We also know that our kids in Haiti are doing really well and they are so excited about the different parties that will be going on at churches in the area. They have a special meal planned, they have special outfits picked out, and they are ready to spend time celebrating and worshipping together in their churches.
I have to say the hardest thing about being back here is how easy it is for me to get sucked into the “American” Christmas. It can almost be nauseating the amount we spend on gifts, and it is hard for me not to get caught up in it as well. I think often about how easy it would be for Sophie and Elijah to believe that Christmas is about opening presents, and I don’t want to build the foundation of this season on that lie. One of the strangest things that I have noticed as a parent is the idea that we build everything up to Christmas Day on what our children have asked for from Santa and what they hope to find under the tree. There is this crazy amount of anticipation leading up to the day that they finally learn whether or not they got what they asked for and their whole day rises or falls on the outcome of their gifts (watch “A Christmas Story” for a great example of this phenomenon). And then we wonder why Christmas has turned into what it is. Do we really expect to lay the foundation of Christmas as a time of wanting, asking for, and receiving extravagant gifts only to completely change the tone of the season when we believe our kids are old enough to understand. Nothing in the world works that way. What we teach our kids when they are young is what they will continue to believe and it is hard to break that. I keep asking myself, “what are we teaching our kids?” What will Sophie and Elijah believe about Christmas, Easter, who Jesus is, what prayer is, etc. based on what we show them?
In Haiti this type of Christmas was not even a consideration and it was refreshing to spend a Christmas like that. We could not run down to the nearest store and purchase gifts for everyone, people cannot afford to be extravagant so they have to be creative to show their love. Many people cannot afford to throw Christmas parties, so the local churches gather together for hours every Christmas to be together, worship together, and ultimately to enjoy time together thanking Jesus for what He did 2000 years ago. At the same time, it is great to be in a place and a position where we can purchase gifts for our children and help them enjoy this wonderful time of year. I love that Sophie will wake up Christmas morning to a new play kitchen and Elijah will have a new riding toy (we could have gotten him anything at this point as long as it would fit in his mouth) but I never want them to believe that is what Christmas is.
Christmas is about 1 thing and that is the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.