Written by Brittany Pettinger of Elgin, Manitoba

I’ll Be Home for Christmas starring Jonathon Taylor Thomas, is a 1998 movie that was a family classic growing up. As a kid, I always thought that I would be home for Christmas, seeing as it was my favourite holiday. Until two years ago, I had always been home for Christmas, but in 2014 and 2015 I spent Christmas in Lebanon.

That first Christmas away from home was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I was in a different country with an entirely different culture, with different food and people, with no members of my family with me. I remember Skyping my family on Christmas trying my best to hold back my tears because I didn’t want to be without them.

In that time of homesickness I learned a valuable lesson. I had to be willing to sacrifice certain personal traditions, if I wanted to fully enjoy the blessings laid before me. If I had been home that year, I would not have met the amazing people I met during the trip. I would not have rededicated my life to Christ, or been baptized in the Mediterranean Sea. I wouldn’t have grown in Christ the way I did that winter. I am sure all these things would have happened eventually, but not at the time that they actually did.

When God called me to the same place in 2015 it was much easier the second time around. I allowed myself to embrace the differences in culture and customs I encountered.

Christmas has always been very important to me, but I have realized that no matter where I spend it, the story behind it will it never change. Recognizing that it’s not about who I spend Christmas with or where, this year I want Christmas to be more than about just presents, and trees, and decorations. I want it to be about the greatest gift ever given, I want it to be about love- God’s love. Jesus demonstrated that love by taking on human weakness and pain to save us when we did not deserve it.

If you’re away from your family this Christmas, it may be difficult, but remember it’s not about where, how or who you spend Christmas with. It’s about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, that He was sent for you to have freedom, everlasting life, joy and peace.

Find a group of people in your community who share your beliefs and have your own Christmas celebration. If your local church doesn’t already have an event for young people, suggest having a youth group or young adult celebration in the church. Christmas away from home doesn’t have to be sad or lonely. We are all one family in Christ.