Written by Andrew Bryden

“A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” – Matthew 1:23, CEV

I was lucky enough to travel the world when I was a child, as my family followed my father from place to place in support of his job. I learned about different cultures. I learned how to respect other peoples’ traditions and religions. And, I learned that fundamentally, people are good, wherever they are from. These are lessons I am grateful for, and lessons I treasure to this day.

No two Christmases were ever the same. Some of them were spent in rural England, some in the middle of the sprawling metropolis of Hong Kong. Sometimes we would be in the intriguing city of Tokyo, sometimes in Virginia, sometimes in New Jersey, sometimes overlooking the English Channel, and other times in the suburban areas of London.

Most of the time we were thousands of miles away from the rest of our family. We would envision them sitting round a fire opening their gifts, wondering what they were having for Christmas dinner, and picturing them taking a wine-inspired afternoon nap in front of the TV.

As a child, one of the most exciting things I remember on Christmas Day was receiving a recorded tape cassette that had been sent to us from our family members. This was usually orchestrated by our grandmothers. We always returned the favor. The tape was filled with Christmas messages and well wishes for the year to come. My sister and I cherished the tapes and listened to them over and over. In hindsight, the fact that we would then make a phone call to them seemed somewhat redundant, but it was still special.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year (it’s actually my favourite time of year, but hey, when in Rome). To me it is a reminder that wherever we are in the world we are loved by our family and friends, and that we love them back in equal measure. It’s a reminder that someone is always thinking about you, even if you rarely get a chance to see them or talk with them. And it reminds me, like the quote from Matthew 1:23, that God is always with us too, constantly looking out for our well-being, guiding our every step, and instilling in us a desire to help others.

As I look to 2020, I’ll remember that last point the most. I’ll strive to help others more than I ever have before, because as I get older, I realize that God really is in us, and fulfilling his will by contributing more to this world we live in is how we become better followers. I value Haymarket Church for giving me and my family the opportunity to do good things, and I value all of you in the church for being such good examples of God being with us.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to make that FaceTime call to my family every year, because after all, it’s Christmas, and the tape cassette is no longer a thing.

May God be with you and yours this Christmas, and may he instill in you the strength to do more.