I was sixteen when I spent my first Christmas away from my parents. I was back in America for high school, so I spent Christmas with the host family that I was living with at the time. It was more difficult than I was ever going to admit, and I just swept the whole notion away by being pragmatic. But, I did miss my own family. That year wasn’t the only Christmas I spent away from my parents. I am very thankful for multiple families who opened their homes to me for Thanksgiving and Christmas. God has used those experiences in the last couple years to teach me something else about family in general, while making me ever more thankful for every minute with mine.
Family. That seems to be the theme and sentiment around this time of year, doesn’t it? This last month of the calendar year that America has coined the “holiday season” always seems to be centered around family, and I love that. But when you can’t be with your own family, it becomes an especially hard time of the year. For some, the theme of family is a complex issue and they find themselves struggling for a variety of reasons. Mixed in with all the emotions of this struggle is a very natural response: a desire for the closeness of family. It’s OK to desire closeness. However, we do have a choice in how we respond to our emotions; and it is an inexcusable response to draw away from people and become consumed inwardly. This can manifest itself even while being surrounded by people, but no longer being present as you withdraw into your inner thoughts.
I may not have been among my blood family for those holidays during high school and college, but I was still among family. A much bigger family. A family that I cannot outrun. In the midst of being tempted to pull away and isolate myself, God used the church to remind me that I have an eternal family. I was among the family of God who was motivated to invite me in by the love of Christ. (Matthew 12:49-50) And in return, my response and motivation should also be the same. That’s what makes the difference this time of year is it not? In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the “holiday season,” it is God’s love that keeps our eyes on the gospel and the celebration of the beginning of redemption on earth.
The obligation of presents and presence seems to become burdensome very quickly when we make them the focus of the season. So take heart, draw near to Him. His family is always ready to love and invite you in. Remember that Christ was not born for our presents or peppermint mochas. He came to earth to redeem you from sin and give you eternal life, and He has a myriad of tools to remind you that He loves you, including His people.
So, as semesters come to a close, I hope that you will take the time to remind yourself of the gospel and allow your heart to be encouraged by who God is. Don’t hesitate to ask Him for love. Ask Him to help you love on your family, blood and the church. You never know the difference it can make. With this time off between semesters, use it to be intentional. Our Netflix binges are too much of a reality to be a joke anymore. Seek out opportunities to be intentional with your time off by loving on people and speaking the gospel into their lives. And as the holiday slate of Christmas parties, church functions, and family gatherings commence, ask Him to help you see those people as He sees them.
The sentimental nature of this season is a privilege for us to point to the baby in the manger who redeemed us on the cross.
Zach Lim is currently pursuing a masters degree in Business Analytics at the University of Tennessee, where he is seeking to walk with the Lord in discipleship and community. He interned with Precept in 2013, loves coffee (sometimes too much), sports, traveling, and is looking forward to the work God lays before him.