Merry Christmas, first of all!
This year, Sam and I celebrated Christmas day quietly at home here in England. November and December were a little hurried and hectic, marked by surgery, recovery and some stress. We also enjoyed time with friends, many laughs, and time in our cozy home. Because of how time has flown, I was so thankful for a quiet Christmas at home! It’s always difficult to be away from family during the holidays, but thank goodness for FaceTime, Skype, and phone calls, right?! I felt like I had time to pause, take a breath, and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.
There are so many exciting things to do around here for the holidays – visiting cathedrals, choirs and concerts, festivals and markets – but I didn’t really do my research in time at all. Instead, we headed to London for Christmas eve, even though everything I know from Doctor Who tells me that’s a terrible idea.
Sam went to London a few weeks ago and went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. At that time, it was so crowded that it verged on agitating instead of enjoyable. Still, I had heard a lot about it and wanted to go! So, on Christmas eve, when I was finally feeling up to the adventure, we hopped on the tube and headed for Hyde Park. We got there early, and to my surprise, it wasn’t crowded at all!
Our first stop was to get Belgian waffles. Cinnamon sugar for me, Nutella for Sam. YUM.
We meandered through the lanes of stalls and rides, passing bundled kids and their obliging parents. It thankfully wasn’t too cold, but just brisk enough to make mulled wine a must. The whole ordeal was commercial, yes, but also wintery and enjoyable. Still secretly hoping for a white Christmas, I couldn’t help but think it could have been improved by snow flurries, but the promising puffy clouds had other plans.
After having our fill of the Bavarian bustle we headed back to the tube to move on for the day, just in time to avoid the downpour.
Further proving what a small world it is, some friends from college were in London for Christmas! It was so nice to catch up with them over a great meal and to see some familiar faces on Christmas eve.
The rest of our holiday was spent at home, curled in front of the fireplace, playing cards and spoiling our furry family. Watching White Christmas and Fantasia. Reading of the birth of Christ from Luke, as well as some Robert Frost.
On Christmas day we took some goodies to the troops working on base and otherwise just lounged around at home. Sam’s main Christmas gift from me was an aquarium, so he spent his time setting up filters, checking water levels, washing and preparing gravel, etc. I asked him and he reassured me that was fun for him. 🙂
Sam knocked it out of the park this year with his main gift for me. AN ESPRESSO MACHINE!!! I did give several not so subtle hints. (It helped that there was a commercial of someone handing that exact model machine towards the camera, as if giving the gift to whoever was watching. I would reply each time with, “Why, thank you!”)
He also surprised me with two beautiful little necklaces, HAIM‘s Days are Gone on vinyl, new perfume and other goodies. Samuel’s great at gifting. He knows me so well!
We enjoyed two great Christmas services at our church. One message was given by a lively Scot who has that rare ability of sneaking in a memorable and powerful message while simultaneously making you roll with laughter. His message has really stuck with me since hearing it two weeks ago. He told a story from his childhood about how his sister wanted this very specific doll for Christmas. She did in fact receive it Christmas morning, and the speaker and his brother played their brotherly roles by immediately mocking her for it. “That is proper rubbish.” When it came up missing later that day, he of course was blamed. After much crying and denying, the toy was found in the family’s large black plastic trash bag, still sitting in the living room floor, buried under the wrapping and cardboard.
“Don’t throw the gift out with the wrapping.”
Obviously upon opening my espresso machine, I didn’t jump up and down with joy and then promptly bin it. No… After opening it and realizing what it was, I carefully placed it down and admired it, I thanked Sam immediately and hugged both him and the espresso machine. Now I can’t wait to get it set up, figure out how to use it properly, and take advantage of that gift every single day! The speaker challenged us to treat the ultimate gift – Jesus Christ, sent to be our salvation – the same way. This holiday season, as you’re attending parties, getting things checked off your to-do lists, travelling, or enjoying your other gifts, remember that those things are really just the wrapping. Bonuses. Blessings. We’ve already been given the only gift we need. This world and the good things in it are simply ways God shows us the gift that has already been given. Though I did miss being home in the states for the holidays, I am thankful for a holiday with a little less “wrapping.” I doubt I would have been able to see through that wrapping this year. I fear I would have distractedly swept up the true gift in the busyness of it all, missing the message that God so wants me (and you!) to understand. Christ was sent to earth, and ultimately sent to his death, to bear my sins and set me free. What a gift indeed!
Although it’s been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you!