Today I’ve been thinking of those alone at Christmas. I started thinking about my dear Children’s Pastor, whose husband was struck by a car last week while he was walking to work. He survived and we are all so thankful, and is in the hospital with two broken legs and a broken vertebrae, but not paralyzed. His original date of discharge was to be Monday, then a surgery pushed it back to Wednesday, now it may be delayed again as a couple of days in a rehab unit are being considered, but Sylvia is still hoping to have him at home with her and the girls by Christmas.
My cousin and his wife are stationed in Okinawa. Last year we skyped them as they spent their first Christmas together, but apart from all of us. This year my sweet cousin Tiffany is by herself in Okinawa as Jason is in an undisclosed area, sharing his military grade tent with a wee little uninvited mouse and a tiny tree sent from home. The rest of his family is at home -they celebrated Christmas last Sunday-with an engagement announcement, knowing next year that son will be in his own tent in his own undisclosed location with a tree from his family and stocking from his fiance.
Another friend from church is awaiting her official referral for the adoption of her son from Ethiopia. She’s spending this Christmas with friends here, but I know her heart is in Ethiopia with her little boy as she picks out furniture and toys, complete with a Little People Nativity Scene, and praying that next Christmas, they will be together.
What is it about Christmas that makes people long to be with those they love the most? I really don’t think it’s the gifts, though ask any five-year old and those are pretty important. It may be the traditions and memories created by the season, but I wonder if it’s not something more. On the day we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, God with us, Agape love in the flesh, we want to be with the ones we love. We want to get a glimpse of that eternal love in a manger in those around us. We are yearning to truly see love, real love, and we look for it in those around us.
Perhaps that’s why it can be such a time of loneliness and stress. We can’t always be with the ones we love-due to geographical constraints or rifts in the relationship. My grandmother has spent 10 Christmases without her husband, who is celebrating in heaven. Sometimes the ones we love are even in the same room, but the loneliness is still there. We want so much to create and manufacture a bit of that real love, and when we look at what we’ve done, it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.
We can’t manufacture Jesus or His love. Love come down from the right hand of the Father–giving up all that to be an illegitimate child carried by a teen age mother, to be scorned and reviled by His own people. Doesn’t seem like such a great trade-off fom what He gave up, unless you recognize that love for the Father and love for us were behind the decision to come that way. To come disguised in our own frail human suits, so we could see love in action. Loving the demon-posessed, the unclean, the poor, the rich; longing to save the religious from their self-imposed bondage, taking up the cross with the joy of knowing He was giving us all a chance and a choice. The choice of a relationship with the Father so we would no longer be alone, no longer alone in the here and now or after death because His spirit would dwell within us. And a chance because we can’t on our own enter into that relationship without the blood of that tiny baby in a manger, all grown up, and dying in the ultimate agony–alone and separated from the Father–in our place for our sins.
Here’s the chance to NEVER be alone again, even when you’re husband’s in the hospital or heaven or a tent far away, when your son’s in an orphanage or serving his country far away, when the breach in your family makes it seem like the distance between you and your sibling on the couch is a million miles instead of 18 inches, when your kids are with your ex-wife on Christmas Eve, or when you feel like you have nobody or are nobody…
So what will be Your answer? Will You hear the call?
Of Him who did not spare His son but gave Him for us all
On earth there is no power there is no depth or height
That could ever separate us from the love of God in Christ (Michael Card)