There are lights on the trees, the Christmas tram is running, I’ve hung snow flakes in my living room, hot chocolate is out in full force. Christmas is coming.

The Christmas Tram

When you live in a country far from your home, change becomes the norm. This is especially true among friendships. Volunteers are here for a season and then move on—people come, people go. This constant fluidity in relationships can make holidays hard.

Christmas is an important holiday for my family. For several years, with my brother and his family living across the country, it was the only time when we were all together. I come from a fairly large family—five kids, most of whom are married—and we had many traditions that we did around Christmas.

I visited my family in October and when I returned to Hungary, I began to feel sad about Christmas and what it would be like this year. I knew my roommates would be away during Christmas, and several of my close friends moved away earlier this year. I anticipated loneliness.

Spurred by this feeling and the desire to start my year focusing on the Lord, I booked a trip to a retreat center for several days after Christmas. I chose to take that loneliness and lean into it—creating space for the Lord to speak into that in my life and for me to intentionally seek him in that season and as the coming year begins.

But God has a funny way of working. Since then, he has reminded me again and again of the people who are still here—my friends and teammates that care about me and want to be present in my life. He has reminded me to love those in front of me and invest in them. Through all of this, I began to realize how much I was focusing on what was lost, rather than the relationships and people that were in front of me all along.

However, I also began to question whether I had made the right decision about the retreat. Maybe that wasn’t something God wanted me to do, but just my way of avoiding the loneliness.

The truth is, though, spending time with the Lord is the best way I can think to end a year and begin another. I want everything in my life to flow from my relationship with the Lord, and as that is the reality, I have to be intentional in seeking him and putting him first. If I had not booked that trip, I would have filled up my time here with people and activities, rather than with what he is calling me to: contentment, reflection, and dreaming with him.

I may miss some opportunities to invest in the people he has given me here this Christmas season, but I will have ample chance to invest in my relationship with him—the most important relationship in my life. He is truly what Christmas is all about, and I want my life to reflect that.

Focusing on him at Christmas time can look different for different people. In what ways can you seek the Lord and reflect him in your life this Christmas season?