If I’m learning anything these days, I’m learning that every moment can be a learning moment if you’re paying attention. If you check out this blog every-so-often, you are probably aware that I am in South Africa. And I’ll be here for a while. And I won’t be heading home for the holidays.

I’ve been honest and said that this wasn’t my first choice among options, since we were here with Mark’s family last Christmas, and this year was (in my mind) supposed to be a North Carolina Christmas. But, as I’ve also mentioned already, it seems clear that we’re actually where we’re supposed to be. And that’s a good thing. And I’m glad to be back in Bloemfontein. The sights and the smells are more and more familiar every time we pull into the drive and the gate closes behind us. It’s becoming a wonderful home away from home.

Bloemfontein ChristmasJust the other day, as I was thinking about being away from home at Christmas, the story of Christmas suddenly clicked in my mind in a whole new way. Sure, I’m 7,000+ miles away from home…but what is the story of Christmas? It is the story of God, leaving all the comforts of His infinitely better and more glorious home in heaven, to submit Himself to the humiliation of becoming human, to live the life He lived and experience the death He died, and then the glorious Resurrection that is a promise of the life we have to come in Him. The Creator stepped down into His own creation, and the story of our amazing rescue began.

Far, far, far away from home, lying in that manger, I wonder if Jesus yet had cognitive abilities — was He aware of where He was or was He like other babies? Like, did He have the mental capacity to realise He was going to have to trust someone else to feed Him when He was hungry, and change Him when he needed changing? Did He lie in the manger and think for a moment, even if a brief one– What the heck did I sign myself up for?

While it’s occasionally uncomfortable to be somewhere other than where you’d like to be sometimes, in comparison, I don’t have a holly jolly lot to complain about! How glorious and amazing and challenging it is that the Lord stepped down into this world for you and for me. And He stepped into it for real. Full on. Messy, dirty delivery amongst animals in a stable full on. Travelling preacher without a place to lay His head full on. Healing blind touching lepers people wanting to kill Him full on. To bring us back into right relationship with Him. I’m so thankful that Jesus wasn’t home for Christmas a couple thousand years ago. That’s where the story of us finding our way back home began.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: Whether you’re where you’d like to be this holiday or not, take a moment to be thankful for the God who left it all and surrendered to those humble beginnings in Bethlehem. Remember that in appearance it wasn’t as ‘pretty’ as your church nativity scene might make it out to be. But remember the beauty of this love story — the greatest love story ever told — God came near, and it all started at Christmas.