Perhaps more than any other year in the six decades I’ve been around for Christmas holidays, this has been the strangest and most challenging. And it seems, this year, I am not alone in this perception. While some families spend time and hard-earned money (or credit to be repaid in the new year) to be with family and friends, this year I find myself “being still” where I am, considering how others feel who may not have the time, energy, resources, or resolve to celebrate in the traditional, conspicuous way.
Perhaps being an “empty nester” has something to do with the feeling of being detached from festivities, but it’s interesting how my path has crossed others in transition, dealing with similar sentiments, looking for some kind of comfort to “muddle through somehow”, as a popular Christmas song suggests we are capable of doing. Spouses or parents have passed away and “gone to their rest”, the separation of parents and their children by choice or court orders, unfavorable medical diagnosis, and pre-occupation with chronic pain have knocked some off their donkeys. Instability in governmental leadership and upended economics have all done their part in shaking foundations of hope and comfort as “real news” jockeys to displace “good news”. (Monday night football is no consolation for peace-seekers, either. One more loud-mouthed, opinionated neighbor, who feels a need to broadcast his prognostications, may put me over the top on Christmas Day.) I pray for grace and mercy to come out ahead of the game, content to just finish reading a book behind closed doors and windows.
Perhaps the absence of children and the passing of loved ones, who once made the season special—even magical– has something to do with it, but there is more to consider. Perhaps it has as much to do with songs during the holidays being “white” or “snowy”, while living in a one-season-fits-all climate—-no thrill there or firesides glowing, unless you crank up the A/C and bundle up in cheap purchases from Goodwill (where everyone from colder climates made donations of winter clothes when they moved to Florida).
As heralds of “Peace on Earth” proclaim what must be believed without the benefit of seeing —otherwise known as Faith—-some of us are asked to reconcile being alone with the promise of never being forsaken, while too often feeling “forsaken” and more alone than ever. This prompts me to “wonder as I wander, out under the sky” how the Shepherds felt minding their flocks by night with campfires for warmth and sturdy wooden sticks to keep wolves away. Probably they felt alone and unappreciated (except by the sheep, of course), in what may have been thrift store garb.
Passing empty parking lots of stores and restaurants as I left work on Christmas Eve, earlier than usual, I marveled at the fact so many establishments had decided to close both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. ( I still wonder why they feel a need to reopen at all until after the New Year, but I’m ignoring the thing called “end of year sales to increase the bottom line” before the tax time “Reason for the Season” crunch. Surely beasts of burden and stable hands can clean up a messy afterbirth, so let the return items and New Year’s sales roll us into recovery, after new deductibles for open heart surgery have been paid.)
I observed police officers directing traffic in and out of church parking lots with glow sticks, but no Santa hats. I wonder if they felt alone or detached as record numbers of drivers in sanctified car-pools followed their stars home. Neighborhood Christmas lights were the next best source of affordable entertainment for souls looking to find colorful glimmers of light in the world.
A passage from the New Testament of the Bible came to mind, as I thought about a young woman met who was excited about a baby developing in her belly, and other women going through transitional times in their lives requiring them to release their children, or look for new reasons to move forward in their lives alone.
“The whole creation has been groaning, as in childbirth, right up until the present
time…even as we groan inwardly for redemption”. (Romans 8:22)
I’m coming to terms with the “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams” song-lyric, as a reality, until we are finally “at home with the Lord” in our heavenly dwellings.
How wonderful it will be to “owe no man anything, except the perpetual debt of love, one to another” (Romans 13:8).
Until then, perhaps we’ll find our place in “tribes”, among those who are
“Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing,
and yet possessing everything.” (II Corinthians 6:10)
Wherever we find ourselves, here’s hoping a sense of “Home” will tap us on the shoulder or settle in a comfortable corner of our memories, as comings and goings carry us through the holidays and into a New Year.