Otterburne, MB – As we are getting ready for a Christmas like none that we have lived through before, we are anticipating celebrating with family. Our immediate family. Only our immediate family. Only our immediate family who live inside our house. Need to take a deep breath? So do I.
There will be no big extended family dinners with board games, kids laughing and aunts and uncles telling stories of childhood. There will be no elaborate Christmas parties and Christmas banquets to host and attend. There will be no Christmas concerts or programs with shepherds and angels in homemade costumes. There will be no candlelight service with a choir and carols and candles lit one by one. There will be family, just family, alone in our house for the holidays.
I was sorely tempted to feel sorry for myself, for us all, until I began to reflect on what Mary and Joseph must have felt as they welcomed their long-expected son (and Saviour) into the world. Overwhelmed. On their own. Away from family. Uncertain. In a strange place. In a space intended for the care of animals.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6-7).
I look at our living room and our kitchen table where we will celebrate Christmas this year and I am suddenly profoundly grateful. Grateful for this familiar and warm home. Grateful for those who will shop for and deliver the food that I, by God’s grace, can still afford to buy and am able-bodied to make together with my family. Grateful that all of our extended family, though not physically together, are safe and in God’s care. Grateful that I can still pray for and support those who are facing trials and loss even if I can’t give them a hug. Grateful that in the New Year I will return to rewarding work with diverse, determined and dedicated students, staff and faculty that God has brought to Providence for such a time as this.
I wish you all a safe and grace-filled Christmas. No matter the size of your living room or tree or kitchen table or dinner, remember to give thanks for the blessings that we have been given and the time that we have been granted to enjoy them. May the gift of Jesus fill our homes and hearts more meaningfully this year than ever before. Merry Christmas to you and God’s favour for us all in the New Year.
– written by Providence’s own Cathy Rust-Akinbolaji, University College Dean & Assistant Professor of TESOL