When I think of this verb, I think of actions. An action that depends on me, that is from me to the “object or being that is loved”. Because of this, I can say I am a person who loves. Yes, I love my family, my community and I love nature. I think I love because I am conscientious of the fact that I am loved and I learn to love from love’s very essence: God loves me so much that He gave His one and only Son. It is December and obviously my mind is centered on Christmas, in the birth of Immanuel, God is with us. For me, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love the lights, singing Christmas carols, spending time with family or with those God has given me as family, but above all I love this season because believers and non-believers, all hear that “a Savior has been born”. We all hear this good news in the carols sung, in the lights shining and in the good will and compassion that fill our hearts.
Here in Argentina, it’s a little different than in the rest of Latin America. There is not a lot of Christmas decorations, nor lights everywhere but we do share the main dates with family. Our church is made up mostly of foreigners. Many of whom are far from family and because of this, many are melancholy during this time. We miss so many people! Here is part of a song by a Venezuelan group called “Voz Veis” that I only listen to when Christmas comes: “Tell me parents, How are you? On this night we have so much desire to embrace you without stopping. To speak to Uncle Juan. How is my city decorated? Is each house wrapped like colored ornaments? In these celebrations that I can not attend, tell my friends that I am okay. That it is just as I planned but this night my heart constricts. Tell them that I miss them a lot. That here I am doing well and that I imagine... That I can embrace you with cymbal and a drum music, and to unwrap at midnight what the baby Jesus brought... Christmas with me so far away brings so many memories...”
I cannot explain why certain songs move us so much, but I know that this song causes many hearts to constrict when we hear it. As the words say: we want to embrace and hug our parents, to tell someone we love them, to know how our cities are decorated, many think of what kind of presents are given or what we would receive if we were there... We think of the memories that we have and the distance that is between us and our families or countries. As a foreigner I share in this feeling, of being far from the family whom I miss. And it’s in this missing that I am conscience of God, who is the essence of love, who put that love into action. Even though my blood family is far away, I have a family that He has given me that is close. He has taken it upon Himself to introduce us into His family, He cares for us, He sees who we are and fills us through His family. The family that He chose for us in the places where we are. And the best is that it’s not just about filling ourselves and feeling connected, He puts us where each one of us can give and be active.
I am not a person who has a lot of family traditions. What I do have is the day that I put up and decorate the Christmas Tree. I enjoy decorating and plugging in the lights with those I love. I remember the first year that I came to this country and my daughter and I found this tree and decorated it. It was “our thing” that we did for years. Three years ago, we received a bigger tree and like our tree, our family also grew bigger. More friends and brothers and sisters in Christ started coming to help us decorate. This year, not all could come because of the quarantine, but a lot could. Personally, it makes me happy to have people over to our house who cannot be with the family that they miss. They get excited about decorating with the ornaments and lights. It gives me joy to see their faces and how they feel at home in my home.
I am also thankful for the possibility that God has given me to have a home that has space to have gatherings. Though there is not a lot of conveniences (the plates, cups and seats are all different shapes, colors and sizes because it’s all been recycled and from second hand) but everyone says they feel comfortable and as if they are in a hotel as I have clean sheets and food since everyone knows that when they came to decorate the tree at my house, they come to spend the night. It’s tradition that everyone stays to spend the night and we make a big dinner and for breakfast we eat the leftovers. I guess this tradition is a tradition to be with each other and I love it. I love the tradition of “the stranger having a home for the stranger” I don’t know where you are right now nor where God is calling you to, but I am sure that wherever you are, you receive a lot, and you have the possibility of giving. Maybe you don’t have your parents close where you can hug them, but I assure you there are many around you who need a hug. Maybe someone close by needs to know that they are loved. Maybe you have a home where you can offer a blanket to someone. Or you can be home for someone. I pray that it is. May your eyes and heart be opened to receive and give more this Christmas.