that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you will be filled up to all the fullness of God.

–Ephesians 3:17-19

 

Our little princesses giggling in the backseat of the family van, Christmas music playing on the radio. Lights twinkling on the tree. Cookies baking in the oven. Lazy mornings lounging around in our pajamas by the Christmas tree. I’m sure so many of us can relate to this familiar scene. After all, Christmas is all about family, right?

 

A few years ago my oldest daughter was spending her first Christmas away from home. She had gone back to our home state of Texas for college as my husband and I remained on the other side of the globe. We serve as missionaries in Spain and have spent many a Christmas on the other side of the pond. This particular year we decided as a family that it would be a great idea to send our youngest, a teenager now, to spend Christmas in Texas with her sister and our family there. 

 

From the time the girls were born we had succeeded in our efforts of making Christmas a special family time for the four of us. We enjoyed many Christmas visits throughout the years from our parents and other loved ones. We had traveled together to spend Christmas back home with our family as well.

 

This year would be different. Our whole family would not be spending the holidays together. It was just going to be the two of us now.  

 

As it sunk in, I felt a sobering reminder that we were getting closer and closer to being that couple, the empty nesters. As we sent our daughter away that December morning from the Madrid airport my heart was instantly filled with a yearning to turn back the clock. Where did the time go?

 

As a family we had not only become used to traveling, moving from place to place, and meeting new people, we had come to embrace the joy of doing all of those things together. Being together had become one of the central sources of my joy as a mom, especially in the Christmas season. There is nothing wrong with being together, however, life does not always work out that way.  

 

Many people spend Christmas apart, loved ones battling cancer, children making the best of unfortunate family situations outside of their control, couples experiencing painful separations, the loss of loved ones, and now a global pandemic. There are many circumstances that keep us from loved ones that cannot be resolved in time for Christmas. 

 

That December morning, our kiddos miles away, as my husband and I drove back from the airport, the Lord reminded me that He saw my tears, that He was aware of every struggle and hurt in my life and in the lives of those around us.  He had no intention to leave our side. He promised to be right there in the airplane with our daughter, right there in the hospital room with hurting friends and loved ones. 

 

That year I must confess that many Christmas ornaments stayed in their boxes. I found my husband’s hand frequently embracing mine, as little tears were shed here and there, and just like that, we were both remined to let the Author of Christmas embrace us with His love. Because in truth, Christmas is enjoying being a part of His family.

 

Christmas is knowing that we are part of the best family of all, the body of Christ. All over the world, people who have encountered the King of kings, and who have humbly surrendered their lives to His lordship, have come to worship the One who became flesh, came to this earth, and redeemed us.  

 

This Christmas, as COVID has impeded us from gathering with family once again, I am reminded that our family of faith is closer than ever. Even though we are apart, we can partake in the joys of the body of Christ together with believers near to us. From every corner of the world, as families of faith we celebrate the birth of our King Jesus, we find new creative ways to serve in our communities, share the gospel with friends and neighbors, and help others find their way to this forever family during this new Christmas season. 

 

If you are struggling this year, with circumstances outside of your control, remember you are not alone. Your Father would like for you to experience along with other saints, how much He loves you and how much He is wanting to fill your life with the heart of Christmas: His presence.  

 

 

Angela, 

Spain

 

 

 

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