To be present is to be absent

This Christmas was our 4th here in Peru. Which also means it was our 4th Christmas away from family, away from our traditions, away from the cold that actually makes it feel like Christmas. I am still not used to Christmas being during the hottest time of the year. It just never really FEELS like Christmas. 

This Christmas our neighbors Frecia and Pedro invited us over to their house to be a part of their family Christmas. We went over to their house around 10PM with some traditional US Christmas dishes to share. While waiting for dinner to be ready we read through the stories of Jesus’s birth in Matthew and Luke. At 11:30PM we finally sat down and ate a full Christmas meal (turkey included), taking a break at midnight to watch the fireworks. After we finished dinner we exchanged gifts and then went home around 2AM. 

It was so, so special to be included in their family Christmas celebration. It was truly a gift from God to have a family to celebrate with. But in order for us to get to experience this fully, we had to be fully here. In order for us to be fully here, we had to be absent in our own family’s celebrations. Being away from family is one of the toughest parts of living in Arequipa. But it was being away from family that made this most special night possible. 

The whole Christmas season here is centered around the birth of Jesus (Santa Claus has a lesser role). What we are celebrating is God’s presence now on earth with us through Jesus. Jesus was fully present here. But in order to do that he had to be absent somewhere else. He gave up heaven in order to bring God’s presence here on earth.  

We have been absent from many things in the US: births, birthdays, holidays, vacations. But in that absence, God has so fully blessed us with friends that have become like family here. Now we have started our own traditions as a family and team here. We go to the beach with friends. We ring in the new year with the neighbors. Our friends here celebrate with us as Adileen turned 2. We’ve even gotten to share our families with our new friends who are like family here. 

We want to be present and when we are, God is too. 

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