The older I get the lonelier I get at Christmas.
All my grandparents are gone now, so I will not eat Granny’s pie, see Nana’s Christmas play, or hear either Papaw tell a story. Aunt Karen will not help me direct this years play and Uncle Roddy will not make me laugh, because they have gone ahead as well.
Students like Angie Good and, just this week, Justin Key will not post alum messages on Facebook.
I will not be alone this Christmas, but there is no replacing those who have gone. You cannot substitute for a missing friend and I hate any religion or philosophy that pretends you can.
Nana cannot be replaced by anyone or anything. She is gone, I miss her, and nobody can fill her place.
If you are alone this Christmas, and so many are alone, then the situation is made worse. Memories faintly glow in our darkened minds like a turned off television. There was once a picture there, but now there is only a charge where something once was.
There has never been a Christmas without intense loneliness, because when God became man on the first Christmas He set a pattern that will not be broken until the end of time. God became man and elevated us, but began the process that would culminate, at least temporarily, in the sundering of the most intense relationship in the cosmos.
God the Father was separated from God the Son.
They could not perfectly sense each other and the moment the cry of the baby Jesus was heard on Earth the Word became silent in the Heaven of God. We beheld His glory, but no being sat on His throne in Glory.
What is the purpose of this loneliness? Why allow such a bittersweet feeling?
This pain, this loneliness, this loss, is not good in itself. It does not lessen the mourning to know that I do not mourn without hope . . . I want the dead to live now, but they are gone. I mourn and cannot be comforted, because this separation is a severe mercy.
I am being pulled toward Heaven from earth. I am being reminded that this life is not my permanent home, because here it is impossible to be with all the people that I love. There is no complete happiness with Granny and Papaw, Nana and Papaw, Roddy and Karen, Justin, and Angela. There is only a small taste of the loneliness Heaven felt when Jesus condescended to take on human flesh. and finally all of our failures, miseries, and weaknesses.
Jesus came and then went . . . to return and reunite all the loves lost. He lost Heaven, gained Earth, lost it, and soon will return to make Heaven and Earth one whole cosmos again. So too we must die to live and find all the lost loves and all possible happiness in a land where parting will never happen again.
Right now I am pulled in two directions. I cannot wait for the feast with my parents and children, but I cannot wait until I see my lost loved ones again either. Someday, in one great party, I will have it all.
Thanks be to God that though I will be lonely this Christmas and lonelier still in Holiday’s yet to come, that there is a day coming when loneliness will cease. The woe must be endured, because if we go through it with Him, the day will come when we will leave Egypt and enter the Promised Land.
Donne expresses this comfort of Christmas best:
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.