Christmas will feel different this year - we're in a new country, in a new house, with Whitney far away in the States (she'll be spending it with Denny's family in Lancaster, Pa. If you live there, try to see her!)... and in times like this, I feel the weight of the transition a bit more.
Looking back, I remember our first years in Italy - with no children of our own, no family around us, and not very many good friends to spend Christmastime with. My first Christmas celebrations in Europe weren't really easy ones, but slowly we gave birth to a family of our own, we built deeper friendships, we developed our own traditions and the Christmas season came to feel more "ours" and less something foreign.
Yet, I can't help but think that Jesus' coming into the world as a man, as a child, has an awful lot to do with being a stranger in a strange land. How contrary must it have felt to our God's nature, to come into this world full of sin as a fragile child? How foreign must the very young Mary have felt giving birth to a child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, in a barn... in a town far from her home and family.
I find myself feeling so thankful once again for all that God has done since we've moved here to Portugal. Our house has come to feel like a home so quickly and the depths of the friendships that we so enjoy are surprising after such a short time. Our home is warmed by such a sense of "family" and of "community", there always seems to be someone extra around our table or sleeping in one of our spare beds when I wake up in the morning. God is so faithful to His promises...
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mark 10:29-31.