Christmas in three parts

Part one: celebrate

So we spent Christmas in Hong Kong. And in spite of all my brave talk about how glad I was not to be stuck in an airport due to the inevitable weather delay--or once arrived, stuck inside due to that same weather--being far away from home at Christmas is just hard. Especially when you've spent a lot of time thinking about how this place--the place you are--is just not your city, which is the conclusion we've come to.

And though we have decided to stay one more year in this not-our-city, it still somehow feels good to say out loud that we have sought out what is good, we have made friends, we have made it our home, but it has not been easy. I'm going to speak in broad, sweeping generalities here, but the folks who live in Hong Kong who share our culture--who are from the US or Canada or even western Europe or Australia--mostly don't share our values. They are bankers. They spend more on afternoon tea than we do for our fanciest dates. They belong to not one, but two or more clubs, and the clubs are where they spend their time. They buy designer clothes and vacation at Club Med. And that's just not who we are, both by circumstance and by choice. And the people in Hong Kong who do share our values, who care about the environment and about the poor, who like to make things--they don't speak English. And while of course these statements are not universally true, they are true enough.

But here's the thing we've also found ... we don't have to have kindred spirits in order to have friends. We can--and do--have meaningful friendships with people based on little more than, in some cases, a shared nationality, and in others, children the same age. My closest friends here couldn't be more different from me or from each other. Some of them come from India and China, and we sometimes have difficulty understanding each other. Some of them come from unbelievable wealth, and we also have difficulty understanding each other.

And those people who vacation at Club Med and spend all their time in yacht clubs and cricket clubs? I don't blame them anymore. I know the fatigue that comes with constantly navigating a new culture, and how good it feels to go someplace familiar. I know how quickly I can feel at ease with someone just because they are from America and also grew up with, say, Cabbage Patch Kids and The Cosby Show. I know that they are just doing the best they can with what they have.

So Christmas Eve was, for us, a little tiny experience in Incarnation, in God-with-us. Looking at those around us as if they were Jesus, and inviting them in to our little stable on the twentieth floor. There were friends who had never been to a Christmas Eve service before, and friends whose names I can't ever pronounce correctly, and friends who I seriously hesitated before letting them see this humble apartment with its peeling paint and bare lightbulbs. It was lovely and chaotic and only a tiny bit awkward. And Jesus was there, in the wine and the meatballs and the crumbly cookies, reminding us that he too came into a strange new world and made it his home. And where he is, there is our home also. Then we all piled into taxis and went to church together, letting candles and carols fill our hearts, until we spilled back into the warm Hong Kong night, glad to be in exactly this place on exactly this day.

1 comment:

HeatherB said...

Oh! Heartache. What been surprising to me is discovering how hard it is, even within the US, to recover that "my city" feel and to find people with whom you share that elusive "click." I'm reminded these days of what a treasure those relationships, and home spaces, are.