I met Claire this past summer while traveling through England. It turns out we are from the same state and even grew up in the same county (though she grew up there many years after I did!). Today Claire shares about her first Christmas in Scotland.
If you asked me what Christmas was like as a child, I would have a one word answer.. “breakfast.” Each year the tradition my family looked forward to most on Christmas day would be the breakfast we would eat. Grandmother would make her way over with some warm biscuits, my mom made her perfect cheese grits, the tastiest breakfast casserole, and melt in your mouth sausage pinwheels. Everything else on the table may have changed from year to year, but we knew those few things would never change.
Before I moved to Glasgow in the fall of 2016, my family celebrated Christmas early and we had our traditional Christmas breakfast. The older I got it was the special people around the table that meant the most, not as much the food we ate. Knowing I would miss that glorious event was sad, but I was looking forward to new memories to be made in my new home.
I quickly realized that Christmas was going to look very different here in Glasgow than it ever did at home. Scotland has so many fun things to offer around Christmastime. There are beautiful lights and markets in every city where you can eat as much as you want while remembering Christmas calories never count. There are Pantomimes, which are so much fun and a new favourite Christmas tradition.
It’s always cold, which is a strong difference than any other Christmases I spent in the southeastern part of the United States. The churches are filled with carol services, nativities, and lots of mince pies and mulled wine. There is so much beauty in this little corner of the world at Christmas, I was confused as to why it wasn’t turning out to be the best one yet.
Fast forward straight to Christmas Eve. My flat-mate and I were anxiously awaiting our Christmas packages to arrive from our families at home, but it was the 24th and they were still nowhere to be seen. This was a bummer as it was going to be our only thing from home, but we learned to move past it.
The next part of the story needs a bit of an explanation on how the power works in our flat. The electricity in our house runs off of this little “key” that you put money on and then stick it in a box and when the money runs out, you fill it up again, and so on. This was something that was taking us some time to get used to. It was late on Christmas Eve, Jess and I were sitting just talking about how different everything felt this year. Nothing was normal and we were trying to validate that it was okay to have these feelings. Jess went into the cupboard to get something and recognized that our little box with the key only had £0.97 on it. Chaos broke out as we turned off every light and lit every candle we owned. We had to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner the following day, so we had to save whatever power we had left.
Tears started filling our eyes as we were just craving something to be normal. I let out a (semi- sarcastic) prayer, “Lord, I believe you can do anything, so can you PLEASE give us more power?” A short time later just to check, Jess went in and took the key out and when she put it back in, there was £5.00! I think we may have sung a bit of the Hallelujah Chorus, did a little dance, then still kept our lights off to save that little bit we had. Christmas day turned out to be a beautiful day with a new church family, new friends, and lots of good food. But there was a huge lesson that I had to learn that first Scottish Christmas.
Just through that little, though sarcastic, prayer God taught me so much about Christmas. I had this expectation of what Christmas would be, even away from home, but God knew that He could exceed my expectations by teaching me one of the simplest, but most important lessons of not only Christmas, but life.
The past 23 years I have known the Christmas story and the reason we celebrated this day, but this was the first time that I recognized that the only thing that mattered about Christmas is Jesus. Nothing else.
I don’t celebrate Christmas so that I can have gifts, a good breakfast, time with my family, or pretty carol services. I celebrate because Hope came to earth in the form of a baby to save all mankind from our sins. Even when everything is stripped away, we still have the honor of celebrating because through Christ we have all we truly need. It took a Christmas that I longed for something normal to remind me that we are celebrating the truth that all things have been made new. Through what seemed like disappointment and frustration, God took the time to fix my eyes on Him.
Christmas breakfast for my family came to be the perfect illustration of what I learned about Christmas. Every year something will change, just like some of the things on our breakfast table. But there is One thing that will never change, Jesus. From the promise of His coming, to His birth, His death, His resurrection, and now His awaited return He has never changed.
He has always been Love, Joy, Grace, Peace, and Hope to a world that needed Him above anything else. The best part of the story is that it wasn’t just a one time event, because when Jesus came it led to Emmanuel, God with us, and that hasn’t changed. He is with us yesterday, today and forever. The magic of the Christmas story isn’t for a season, but it’s a lens for how we view each and every day.
This Christmas is already shaping up to be a better one, and I believe it’s because God took that opportunity last Christmas to fix my gaze on Him in this season. Traditions are happening and fun is being had, but I can’t help but remember it will be different again next year, and that’s the beauty of it. To know that Jesus isn’t changing even when my circumstances do.
Happy Christmas, from Glasgow, Scotland!