The rains have passed and a cold front has moved in. The morning is filled with banks of fog and only the tops of the trees are visible in the gray-white light. Will Santa be able to find my chimney tonight?
It is Christmas Eve day, a time when holiday music will play continuously and the tree will be lit early in the day. It is a time when final preparations are underway, when travelers are arriving, and the anticipation of children is at fever pitch.
The holiday season is filled with symbols and ideals – from the babe who will one day save the world to the Christmas tree around which happy families gather. If we are fortunate we can remember joyful holidays in the past that were filled with family and friends. If we are even more fortunate this year will number among those happy memories.
But if we live long enough, good cheer can be overtaken by a sense of loss or loneliness. Yesterday I found myself thinking of Christmas times ten, fifteen, twenty years in the past.
I remembered the parents, family and friends who are no longer here; the beloved pets who have long departed. I remembered all that was and would be no more, and my tears carried my heart into the universe where they are waiting for me.
It is easy to feel lonely at Christmas – even among the crowds. I notice how many friends and acquaintances of my age do not have family members near and will be spending the holidays by themselves. They often talk of getting the holiday ‘over with’ and getting back to normal.
We say that Christmas is made for children perhaps because they have specific wishes for specific things and their desires can be fulfilled. But for adults the real wishes of our hearts cannot be so easily expressed or satisfied – the desire for love, for companionship, for peace of mind and a joyful heart.
These things won’t be found in the aisles of Wal-Mart or on special at the local mall. Sometimes they are not found within the family home or at church. These are not gifts that can be given to us by others but gifts which we can find only within ourselves.
If you are lonely this holiday, you are not alone. Look around and you will see others who have no one to love, who may not have shelter, whose hearts are in pain, whose thoughts are lost in memories of the past. Reach out to them – and in comforting them, you will be comforted.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.