These moments of Christmas Eve and Christmas can be some of the most lonely that a single adult will annually face.
Even for those of us who reach out intentionally to others.
I spent part of my evening playing the part of Santa Claus in the home of a friend. A delightful time of fun, song, and humor, plus wide-eyed little ones. I even convinced the patriarch of the family to sit on my lap for a Santa photo. I am beginning to get the hang of how to provide a meaningful, fun experience full of memories, without overstaying my welcome. Soon, however, it was time for me to leave. And leave I did. Back to the quietness, the stillness of a darkened room.
Oh, I turned on my lights. I lit the Christmas tree lights, and set music to playing. I reflected on the goodness of the Lord to allow me into the lives of another family, even for a little while. Yet, the quiet set in. I grew pensive.
My thoughts turned to the plight of that young betrothed couple, Mary and Joseph and their arduous journey to meet the demands of the required census. It was not an expedition filled with festivity and consumeristic travail. They simply wanted to carry out their duty so that they could return home safely. But their alarm grew, and so also did their anxiety. For the time of Mary’s travail was soon at hand, and Joseph knew it. As they approached Bethlehem he must have first felt relief, and then alarm as he realized that the teeming crowds had already procured what rooms remained in the inn. The baby would not wait. Mary’s travail became more pronounced. Joseph and Mary must have felt isolated and comforted all at the same time. Isolated from the comfort and understanding of others; comforted in the arms of each other and in the promises of God to them. Surely there were tears and concern.
And then the small stable was provided for their rest. Smelly. Dirty. No place for a family, much less a birthing mother or her soon-to-appear child. But they gratefully and quietly accepted the accomodations. And the star shone brightly in the clear night sky, signalling to those alert to such matters that something of singular prophetic significance was at hand. Alone they were, at first. Perhaps lonely, too. Yes, they had each other. But it appeared at first they were isolated, cast off into the margins of even their nomadic, agrarian, society which was occupied by hostile Roman forces.
And then the boy was born. Jesus. The Son of God. The Son of Man. Angels heralded the good news to the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks by night, causing them to look for this source of great joy for all the world. Magi sought out the prophesied King of Kings. Angels declared the glory of God. And joy entered the world in the flesh, for the redemption of those once alienated from God.
Yes, it can be lonely as a single adult. But as I meditate on Jesus Christ and the Advent narrative, I recognize what incredible joy has been made available to me. To celebrate Jesus. To reach out to the lost with the hope he brings through his redeeming grace. To help those less fortunate who do not yet recognize the hope of the gospel, or have the means to provide for their basic necessities. To take the attention off of my perceived shortcomings and disappointments and focus on the needs of others so that Jesus’ love shines through me and his redeeming grace is made clearly known.
Am I lonely? Do I hurt? Sometimes, yes. Am I joyful? In Christ, absolutely yes. It is a tension between dealing with some of the harsh mundane realities of life, yet appreciating the transcendent redemptive ultimate reality of serving the Lord Jesus Christ, my God and my King.