e wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas.”
Our television sang out the ending to another Hallmark holiday movie. I was too busy addressing our Christmas cards to know how the film ended, although I suspect it wrapped up with an elaborate marriage proposal. I looked over at Ben, hunched over his laptop preparing his next sermon of the Advent season, and sighed. Another Friday night on the couch trying to navigate our long Christmas to-do list and missing our out-of-town family.
In the wet winter season, we are a five-hour drive from the Friesens in Oklahoma and a long day in and out of airports to get to the Bairds in Fresno, California. We knew when God called us to Topeka, Kansas, that we would be further away from our family and have come to realize how difficult that distance is. We miss our family and our growing-up traditions, especially at Christmastime.
Holidays can be an isolating time for people like us, far away from home and trying to learn new local customs. We are blessed to be part of a community who recognizes our struggles and helps us navigate this season with fun and connection. Others may not be as fortunate to find people that reach out to include them.
God consistently calls us to connect—connect with God and with others. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, [and to] be patient with everyone.” We can apply his teachings this holiday season:
If you are far from home, it is OK to miss family and friends and talk about those who are not present. It is wonderful to want to continue holiday traditions and be close to people you love. Don’t let your longing for what is familiar make you miss what’s going on now. Explore new opportunities, connect with people, be present in your experiences and be patient with yourself and others as you adjust.
For those of us who are deeply rooted in our community, take some time this season to reach out and encourage those who aren’t. Even small acts like sharing baked goods or telling newcomers some of your favorite things to do around town can help connect someone struggling to find their place. Your engagement can make a difference to those stuck sitting on their couch on a Friday night.
I searched for our next holiday distraction on the TV and heard a noise in our apartment complex parking lot: singing. Ben put down his computer, and we both went to open the door. Our friends were standing in the cold evening fog along with a dozen adults and children bundled in their winter coats. They handed us a tin of homemade cookies and continued to sing carols at the top of their lungs. Our neighbors opened their doors and we all sang along.
“We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas.”
Ben and Caitlin Friesen are part of the family at Cornerstone Community Church in Topeka, Kan. Ben’s favorite holiday tradition is eating cherry pie for Friesen Thanksgiving, and Caitlin enjoys walking Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno. They both love spending time with family—especially their nieces and nephew—any time of the year. The Friesens are creating new holiday customs in Topeka and look forward to this year’s Christmas banquet at church and driving with friends through TARC’s Winter Wonderland light display.