This year I did something different for Christmas; I took a cruise through the southern Caribbean islands. I went begrudgingly, mostly because the last time my family went on a cruise we hated it! In fact, I thought we’d made a “blood pact” to never go on a cruise again, but I was wrong. My wife and her sister decided we were going on a ten-day cruise that ran until the 28th of December. Being away for that amount of time meant we would be in the Caribbean for Christmas eve and Christmas day.
Being away on a Caribbean cruise for Christmas generally elicits two types of responses. The first is, “Wow, I would love to do that!” and the other is “I would never want to be away for Christmas, particularly if there’s no snow to make it feel like that special time of year.” I can appreciate both sentiments, particularly since I have now experienced both ways of celebrating Christmas. Those thinking it might be a great idea to spend Christmas in the Caribbean appreciate the beauty of this part of the world. They enjoy celebrating Christmas in a place with white beaches and pure blue water. It does change the whole perspective of a “White Christmas.” Those who would never do it think Christmas is meant to be celebrated in cooler temperatures around the family tree with a nice fire burning in the fireplace. Trust me, I can appreciate both these perspectives now that I’ve celebrated Christmas in both climates. The Caribbean is magnificent and now that I’ve been there I must say it was a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas. I never imagined a Christmas eve celebrated with friends and family on a ship nor did I ever think I would celebrate Christmas day watching my children enjoy snorkeling and seeing rainbow colored fish that no Christmas lights could compete with. These were both fantastic experiences. Yet, coming from the North East of the United States, I know Christmas is special when that nip in the air, snow on the ground, and warmth from the inside of the house greet you and your friends as they walk into a home filled with the smell of cookies, wonderful home cooked meals, and the sound of Christmas music coming from the television. These are both wonderful experiences of Christmas.
Having experienced both these experiences I’ve discovered one very important thing about Christmas. No matter where you are Christmas is always about the same thing. It’s a holiday in which we celebrate the grace of God manifested in his incarnation. Whether in the warmth of Aruba, the chilled air of Virginia, or the snowy mountains of western Pennsylvania, Christmas is still about the birth of Christ and what that means. It’s about the fact God in his infinite power chose to suspend that power to take on the form of a weak and frail human person. God chose to be one of us from the abundance of his grace to show us what love truly looks like. He came as a human being to show us love is about emptying oneself and selflessly giving oneself over to others that they may live more fully. This is what Christmas really is; it’s the celebration of love incarnate, God in human flesh coming into the world that we may have life abundantly. I pray all of you had a wonderful Christmas day and are enjoying the remainder of this Christmas season. Peace be with you all!