Christ in My Heart
When I joined the Columban Lay Missionary orientation program in 2002, I knew that my decision entailed a lot of letting go. I knew that there will be special occasions at home that I would miss. This includes one of the most important gatherings, a time to be home, a time with family during Christmas. Since 2003, I have only spent two Christmases with my family: 2009 and 2016. Sadly, 2009 was my mom's last Christmas before she passed away.
Being away from home during the Christmas holidays is a challenge. Learning to cope with "loneliness" while on mission didn't come easy for me. My first Christmas on mission was paired with episodes of tears and sobs. The second, the third, the fourth Christmas and so on came with an unexplained sharp pinch in the heart. Each Christmas season is paired with a longing for home, but somehow I have learned to cope with my loneliness of home over time.
"Home is where your heart is." I heard this often, but didn't fully understand what it meant until I lost both my parents. When my parents were still around, they were the center of our home. Home is different now. I suppose human as we are, to be surrounded with family, relatives and friends and to be in the comfort of home is a piece of heaven. But over the years, I learned that I can be at home in different places, spaces and in certain instances.
In moments where I still feel that pinch in my heart, I have learned to put my gaze on the manger, Joseph and Mary with their newborn child Jesus who had nowhere to sleep but a stable. The couple found a place to lay the newborn child. The baby got a home at that moment— the manger! It must have been a great relief for Joseph and Mary to find a space to lay their baby so they can rest. I find the manger very comforting. A manger in the stable that is messy and dirty that has become the home of baby Jesus at that very moment. But the stable was dirty, filthy and grubby. What did it mean? Why the extraordinary simplicity? Why is it playing a big role in the nativity story? This I wondered.
I am drawn to 1 John 4:9, "This is how God showed his love among; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him." I cannot think of anything except selfless and pure love—unconditional, unjustifiable, and underserved beyond comparison. I suppose the manger is a symbol of home away from home. When I look at the manger, I believe I am being invited to look and experience the grandeur of God's love through the dirty, filthy and grubby. I believe that in order to experience that authentic love I need to step out of my comfort zones and experience the different, the unglamorous and the humbling.
That feeling of longing for home and being surrounded by my loved ones serves as an invitation for me to feel the presence of God. My heart may be filthy and messy but Christ is born and He got a home in my heart! May we all be blessed this Christmas!
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Beth Sabado lives and works in China.