So today marks our ninth Christmas here in East Africa. (!)
Christmas of 2015 we had just evacuated Bujumbura and spent the holidays in what was – at the time, the home of strangers in Kibuye – who turned out to be long-time teammates and lifelong friends. Christmases 2016, through 2020 were all spent in our home in Kibuye.
Christmas 2021 was in Rwanda (where Matea and I were under ‘house arrest’ following positive COVID tests).
And now this year and last year, Christmas here in Kenya.
For Susan and I – that still means getting used to a warm, green, sub-Saharan Christmas. The sun sets at the same time it does every other day of the year, because we’re so close to the equator. I remember dark, cold, crisp, snow-covered Christmases. Tobogganing down the side of the river valley, and skating on frozen ponds, and all that. Bundling up with layers of socks, mitts, boots, and a warm toque.1 Our youngest has no real memories of a white Christmas as she’s never known any with know except her first few in France and one in Canada when she was still just over three.
It’s meant walking over to church in our fancy clothes
It’s meant that for our family some of the most consistent traditions have been: visiting the hospital to sing and hand out gifts to kids, playing outside, then leaving to go camping in Tanzania usually on Boxing Day.
I’ve written before about how the lack of busyness, of buying stuff, fighting for parking at the mall, and the frantic pace of Christmas in the West is really nice to have stripped away.
There is something nourishing about having none of the chaos and frantic pace around the season that’s supposed to celebrate the Prince of Peace.
But of course, it’s also meant Christmas without extended family, and these last two years, Christmas with only half our kids at home.
To be honest – that’s been hard. One of those ‘count the cost’ parts of this life. We all have had so many incredible Christmas memories together – but also are aware of all the Christmas mornings we weren’t present at Grandparents, all the candlelight services we didn’t get to be a part of, etc.
But life is like that – there is nothing good that doesn’t cost something. I don’t think you can gain anything good without having to give up something else. Of course, we haven’t always made those choices well -but hopefully, we’ve made them as good as we could with what we had, and what we knew at the time.
So here’s to all the Christmas memories each of us doesn’t have, the foregone traditions and the times that didn’t come to pass. May we be able to leave them – and celebrate what did happen