Why I Can’t Celebrate Christmas

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Honestly, I could end this post in a few lines.

Fire in Oakland.

Chapecoense football team. 

Genocide in Syria.

Bombings in Germany. 

Explosions in Mexico.

Attacks in Pakistan.

Post-election America. 

Add to this your own personal pains – the passing of loved ones, loss of opportunities, stresses of life – and they still wonder why you can’t deck the halls with boughs of holly or jingle all the way.

This Christmas has been a tough one. It’s been a month since my grandmother died and our family is deeply feeling the void. The political and humanitarian crises at large have sensitized me to the reality of life and only exacerbated this pain.

No. I can’t seem to find a way to celebrate Christmas. Not with everything’s that’s going on. It’s hard to join in on the rampant consumerism and the religious tribalism when you want closure and comfort.

So as a follower of Christ, I’m at a crossroads:

How do I reconcile the pains of the world with the birth of the Promised One?
How can I celebrate Christmas while I’m grieving?
How can I be real with the truth while being truthful to my reality?

I came across a story recently that has given me perspective. It’s found herebut let me summarize it for you: 

The story happens during the time Ahaz was the King of Judah. Ahaz is chilling while he gets news that Rezin and Pekah ( enemies of Judah ) have formed a coalition against Ahaz to subdue it. While homeboy Ahaz is depressed, God sends Isaiah, his prophet, to send a message to him. Isaiah is like, “ Bro, don’t sweat it. God’s going to take care of this.” Ahaz is still petrified. So God Himself engages Ahaz in a crucial conversation. Probably went something like this:

God: Bro, ask me a sign. Any sign. I’ll give it to you. Don’t worry about Rezin and Pekah.
Ahaz: Nah, Lord. I won’t ask a sign. It’s not that serious.
God: Bro why? You guys never learn. So let me give you a sign:

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

Sounds familiar?

If you are, you may have seen this text footnoted in Matthew’s rendition of the birth narrative. Scholars are split on whether the prophecy in Isaiah is foretelling the birth of Jesus or some other baby named “Immanuel”, but given the contexts of Matthew, the rest of the gospels, and the mission of the Messiah, it wouldn’t be too much of a contextual leap to assume the former.

What am I trying to get at? Two things:

1.God’s solution to a maelstrom was not a strategy, but a Son.

God offers a Son as a solution for the political, religious, and emotional mess that Ahaz has gotten himself into. He places his Son right in the middle of pithy platitudes, vacuous promises, and manipulative ends to both break destructive systems and redeem them.

2.God is “God with us.”

Immanuel means “God with us.” The Son was, and is, the fullest expression of God who moved into our neighborhood, enfleshed in humanity. The Son is one who can relate to us in the darkest of nights, the brightest of days, and every day in between.

“God with us” is community. “God with us” is intimacy. “God with us” is solidarity.

Yes. It is a hard Christmas. But it was then just as it is now.
The story points out that Christ was born not in spite of the griefs of his world, but into it. He was born into a political mess, into a religious war, into an imminent, indiscriminate genocide of children, into suffering, into inconvenience, into pain.

This Christmas I take comfort knowing that He is not indifferent to my pain and yours, but intimately acquainted to it. He is in the middle of the maelstroms of my life as Savior, and beside me as Immanuel.

So I may not be able to celebrate Christmas. But I can celebrate Christ. And that’s enough for me right now.

How are you dealing with the Christmas blues? leave a comment below!

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Christmas Confessions of a Third-Culture-Kid

Christmas wont be homeChristmas is painful sometimes.

A significant part of the problem is being unable to identify what “home” really is.

Home is where the heart is, people say. But what if my heart is in many different places? Does that mean I have multiple homes? If so, then is there a place out of all these homes to really call “home?”

I am what they call a Third-Culture Kid (TCK). In short, this means that during my 25-year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth.

Due to the high mobility shared by fellow TCK’s across the globe, home is characterized by a state of intermittence – it is fluid and in a constant state of flux.

I am a case in point.

For the first 12 years of my life, home was the verdant city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Then till I was 19, the metropolis of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman was home. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his provisional invite called the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States.

Over the span of the last 6 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, to Muscat, to Sri Lanka, and then back to Michigan, and will eventually head out to California.

“Where is home for you?”

If you are born and raised in your country of birth, the answer to that question would be pointedly singular and specific. But if you were to ask me that question, I’d state verbatim the previous paragraph supplemented by a geography lesson outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India and an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tiger terrorists from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts.

Home, therefore, is not where my heart is.

It is where my foot is.

Home is where I make it to be.

Home is everywhere. And home is nowhere.

Christmas, unlike any other season, unabashedly and unapologetically reminds me of home. This morning, however, as I was reflecting on the Christmas story detailed in the Bible, I was refreshed to find that my sentiments regarding home found clarity and purpose in the birth of the ultimate TCK – Jesus Christ.

God became flesh. Divinity was enshrouded in humanity. The One who knew no time was born in it. If there was anyone in history who knew the pains of being away from home it was Jesus.

While families across the globe are reunited with their loved ones during this joyous season, the Reason for the season was separated from his family, not just during his birth but for the rest of his life.

But this separation was not a complete separation. Jesus, through his life, exemplified the life of a human being who was in constant communion to his Heavenly Father. Even though there was a physical separation, Jesus felt the closeness of his heavenly home emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

As I write this, I’m in California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my significant other. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and a place to call home.

The warmth and sense of belonging I have received in these places have undeniably alleviated the pain of distance. They have taught me that while I may be physically away from those places I call ‘home’, I am and forever will be connected to them in my heart.

This Christmas I’m thankful for the many homes the Lord has provided for me during the course of my life. I truly have pieces of my heart in each of those places.

I’m also thankful that even though I may be seas away from my family, I am but a prayer away from God.

But above all, I thank God for the promise of a permanent home.

A home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away.
A home where I no longer need to validate my identity.
A home where I don’t have to live off of my suitcase.
A home of perpetual joy, light, and happiness.
A home that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time.
A home whose builder and maker is God.

I won’t be home for Christmas.

For now.

Are you a Third-Culture Kid? If so How do you deal with this concept of home especially during holidays? Leave a comment below!

A Letter to the Silent Disciple (A Christian response to Ferguson, Garner, and recent events)

Dear Silent Disciple,

I get it.

Everyone else is talking while you’re quiet. You’re been following the story, albeit from afar, through your twitter feed or FB newsfeed. Some of your friends have been picking and choosing chairs on the table of truth; whether it be the ones labelled “black lives matter,” “all lives matter,” or “justice matters.”  People are streaming in, picking their chair of choice, all the while discussing and debating on where they stand and what should be done.

But you haven’t picked.

You are not even in the room.

I don’t know what your deal is. Maybe the reputation you’ve garnered in social circles or social media circles is more important to you than the family of Garner.  Maybe you have more important things to worry about than what’s happening hundreds of miles away. Maybe the atrocities that are happening elsewhere don’t really concern you directly. Maybe you believe that whatever you say or do is only going to be a pebble toss on a sea of opinions. Maye you’re just disinterested in the whole thing. Maybe you just don’t care.

But maybe…. you do.

Maybe you’re legitimately concerned. Maybe you’re so concerned that you are trying to figure out what’s the right course of action YOU need to take. Maybe you’ve been raised in a cross cultural context where everybody gets along. Maybe you’re struggling to pick a chair because you hear truth in all sides. Maybe you don’t even WANT to sit because you are so deeply troubled that you just have to move from one side of the table to the other to be there for all people. Maybe you are wondering what all this has to do with you being Christian.

Maybe you are wondering what I’m wondering right now:

As a disciple of Christ, should I respond? If so how?

If, in case you’re wondering that, this is my ‘two rupees’: ( because #SriLanka )

Let me be the first one to tell you this:

It’s OK to be silent.

I know you’ve seen many lash out at each other using their polemical whips laced with stats and statements. You’re so distressed by the opinion wars that you’d rather shut up and do what you can quietly.

That’s ok, because Jesus had a disciple just like you.

Someone who was didn’t really want to be a part of the action, but remained behind the scenes throughout his entire discipleship journey. He was a follower. A disciple. Yet silent. Unassuming. Quiet.

And here’s the kicker:

He was silent even while his Lord and Master was being crucified. Even while His hands were raised. Even while He couldn’t breathe. Even when everyone around Him was convinced that His life didn’t matter.

This silent disciple is named in the bible as Joseph of Arimathea.

Now before you get a little too comfortable and try to add him on Facebook, let me share with you what else we know about this dude:

“This man ( Joseph ) went to Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb and departed.” ( Matthew 27:58-60 – Bible)

Joseph was quiet. But not for long. When he knew he had to act, he acted. In fact, Joseph did what Jesus’ other well-intentioned, opinionated disciples were unwilling to do; sanitize his body and give him the dignity of a burial.

So what am I getting at?

Bro, sis, It’s ok to be silent. But fortunately or unfortunately for you, it won’t be ok forever.

I know it’s tough. But it was even tougher for Joseph. Being a wealthy Pharisee, he risked his social standing, any hopes of being promoted, his job, his family, and maybe even his life to do what he did. But when he knew he needed to do something out of his love for his Lord, he just went ahead and did what he could.

Didn’t tweet awater-drop-ripplebout it. Didn’t Facebook it. Didn’t make a documentary out of it. Just did it.

Friend. Both an earthquake and a pin drop accomplishes the same thing: Breaking silence. So please don’t compare your contribution to the conversation to someone else’s. Do what you can. It could be as small as “liking” a post because it shows solidarity with what you believe is right, or as big as being a part of a march to create awareness to pray for the victims as well as those who trying to do the right thing. Do you.

When should you do it? Only you know. Joseph didn’t ask.

At the end of the day, as a fellow disciple of Christ writing to a fellow disciple, whether you are coaxed into opinion or silenced by it, I want you to remember this:

Jesus didn’t need to go on a protest because His very life WAS a protest.

A protest against injustice. A protest against pride. A protest against sin.

My prayer for you brother, sister, is that this Christmas you will not see Jesus as a vulnerable baby but as a born king; whose birth spoke to the injustice of the Bethlehem infanticide, whose death answers injustice everywhere else, and whose soon return sings of an existence where joy is indescribable and “injustice” is indecipherable.

Merry Christmas.

What’s the right course of action for you as a disciple of Christ? Please share your thoughts and comments below!