To My Family in Haiti Celebrating Christmas

To My Family in Haiti Celebrating Christmas

Oh, how my heart yearns to celebrate Christmas the way my Cercady family does.

As I sit here preparing for the holidays, I can't help but stop and think about my family I visited in Haiti last summer. I can't help but wonder what their Christmas looks like. Is it anything like mine? My Christmases are filled with visiting family and friends, decorating the tree, hanging lights up, unwrapping presents, and peeking at all the goodies that Santa left in my stocking.

I highly doubt that in Cercady, Haiti, they celebrate Christmas with trees, Christmas lights, holiday parties, presents, and hoping that Santa will come sliding down their chimney. I really do not know how they celebrate their Christmas, but at times I wish my Christmas looked like theirs. I like to think that the meaning of Christmas has not become lost in translation, but looking at the world today, it has. The world needs to adjust its view of Christmas and learn where the importance lies, not on tangible gifts, but on the great gift above.

Instead of a Christmas tree, they might look to the wooden cross like the one that Christ was nailed to. Instead of Christmas lights, they look to the Light that shines upon them and protects them day to day. Instead of hoping that Santa will come down the chimney and fill their houses with presents, they wait for the coming of Christ. Instead of holiday parties, they have celebrations and delight in the Lord and Savior. Instead of any Christmas desserts, they are filled with the bread of Christ. Instead of holiday cocktails and wine, they remember his blood and drink from their cup to honor him. Instead of presents wrapped with elaborate wrapping paper, they are reminded that the greatest gift was the one that came from a manger. Instead of Christmas carols and holiday songs, they shout from the mountaintop praises of our Savior. Instead of Christmas wish lists, they write lists of prayers, delights, and struggles. Instead of dreaming of gifts that parish and one day rust away, they dream of the gift that lasts an eternity.

My Christmas looks very different to the Christmases that are celebrated across the world. Often times, I wish that my Christmas looked a little simpler like the way Christmas looks in Haiti. I wish that the world could see how different and special Christmas is the way my family in Haiti sees Christmas.

Luke 2: 9-14 of the NIV "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praying God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven an on earth peace to those whom his favor rests."

Cover Image Credit: Bert Parker

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What It’s Like Being A Christian At A Liberal University

The constant struggle of trying to dissolve the clichés and long-held assumptions towards religion.

Upon attending a liberal university, I started to understand the mindset many people have towards religion. Simply because I hold religious beliefs, I am often considered illogical, overly-optimistic and ignorant.

I’ve sat through biology lectures that teach students that some people have a greater propensity to "fall for religion" simply because of their genetic composition. I’ve heard my philosophy professor emphasize how "spirit" does not exist and that humans are just breathing machines with no soul or purpose.

I’ve listened to my art teacher imply that only those who want to live in fantasy believe in a god because they’ll do anything to help them sleep at night.

Being a Christian at a liberal campus can be difficult because of how people view Christians and what they associate with religion.

It’s hard to explain that the beliefs I hold did not come from force-fed religious jargon in my childhood. It’s hard to share that I believe in a God who practices love, acceptance and second chances and who does not, in fact, hate the gays. It’s hard to stand for a belief that has been tainted by uptight religious undertones and obligatory customs.

The God I believe in went to the church and ridiculed the priests for their strict laws and fixed judgments. The gospel I live by depicts a man who befriended the criminals and prostitutes; who demanded mercy to be given to the adulterous when death was her sentence. The religion I follow is meant for the broken, the imperfect and the lost, in order to give them the chance to become people greater than themselves.

When you take away the voices that misrepresent Christianity, you will see that its final message is for everyone to demonstrate love, patience, and compassion in everything they do. Whether you choose to believe my story or not, it’s important to understand what Christianity stands for--the same goes for every viewpoint out there.

When attending a university with a diverse array of belief systems, it’s important to remain open-minded and strive to understand the intricacies of different cultures and contrasting morals. It’s imperative to look past the stereotypes and assumptions held toward certain beliefs. Only through taking time to understand one another and different perspectives, can harmonious living and discourse be obtained.

Being a Christian at a liberal university can be challenging at times, but when you meet people that are truly willing to listen and present their beliefs to you, it can fuel genuine and enlightening conversation.

Being on this campus has not only allowed me to collaborate with like-minded believers but also to engage in authentic relationships with people that hold different perspectives than my own. College is a time for learning and absorbing everything we can. It is within this community that we can do just that, simply by listening to one another.

Cover Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

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Thank You, InterVarsity, For Being The Best Part Of College Yet

"For where two or three are are gathered in my name, there am I among them" — Matthew 18:20

When I came to college, I knew that my faith was important to me, and I really wanted to be a part of a Christian organization. However, I had no idea how to find one or where to start. It turned out that instead of searching for and finding it on my own, InterVarsity, a large Christian organization at James Madison, found me. Here's how I became involved, and why it's the best thing that has happened to me since I've started my journey as a college student.

On my first week of college, (also known as FROG week) I heard through the grapevine about this weird event called the "watermelon bash." I wasn't sure if I wanted to go, as I hadn’t been off campus yet, and I didn’t know any upperclassmen that were involved in InterVarsity. At the last minute, some friends from my hall convinced me to tag along with them. So, I crammed into a car with a bunch of strangers (probably not the best judgment on my part, but it turned out okay) and off we went.

When we arrived, there was an overwhelming sea of people in the backyard of a house. It was a whirlwind; so many people introduced themselves to me, and I probably gave my phone number to at least 4 different small group leaders. And on top of that, it was dark outside, so I can hardly recognize most people that I met at that event. Nonetheless, I decided that Intervarsity, without a doubt, was where I wanted to be.

So, after that whirlwind event, I attended large group on a Friday night, where I fought for good seats and worshiped the Lord with my brand new lifelong friends. It was there that I signed up to be part of small group.

One day, I received a phone call from a number I had never seen before, and despite the fact that I almost never answer phone calls from people that aren't in my contacts, I decided to pick up.

"Hi Dakotah, this is BryAnna and Hannah, we're your small group leaders!"

And just like that, I became part of a group of girls that I now know will be lifelong friends, and for the next four years (and hopefully beyond our graduation day) we will spend time growing our friendships and supporting each others' relationships with Christ. What a great decision it was to answer that phone call.

Since then, our small group has experienced everything from tunneling, paint twister, and a weekend retreat with no phone service and lots of flannel, to receiving undeniable signs from God, and we have supported each other through everything that college life has thrown at us.

I am so thankful for InterVarsity, as it has given me amazing friends, beautiful memories, and the opportunity to take responsibility for my faith in God. I can't wait to see how God will continue to bless me through this organization during my time as a JMU student.

Cover Image Credit: Greyson Joralemon on unsplash

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