It is Christmas Day and I am alone. The tree lights still shine, the Christmas carols are still playing in the the background and I can hear the shouts of children playing outside, fresh from the excitement of Christmas morning. But I am alone. I am over two thousand miles away from where I celebrated a lonely sad Christmas last year but I might as well be a billion miles away--my life has changed just that much in the space of twelve short months. My adult children joined with me last night for our family celebration; we have added one member and lost another in the past year--so much change, so much loss. But at the end of the evening, they went to their homes and will celebrate with other families today. And I am alone.
This morning, I awoke with this knowledge deep in my gut--I am alone. But really, that has always been my condition and is the condition of all humanity. We are alone even in the middle of big happy families; we are alone even in a healthy and happy relationship. We are born alone and die alone. The aloneness of being human is profound. In my grief, I often long for someone to hold me close, to comfort me like a mother comforts her child--I long for the security of knowing that I am not alone. But a child is never completely joined with her mother--even in the womb she is a separate and distinct person.
This search and desire for intimate union drives us from the moment of our birth. But like a hungry child, we are often frustrated and dissatisfied with the connections we are able to forge--they do not quench the deep loneliness of our soul. We were meant for a deeper connection than what is possible with another human. Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate that God came down--Emmanuel He is called--God with us. He came to rescue us from our loneliness; to save us from our shame. He came to show us that He is present.
So in the glow of the candles burning on my counter, I remember that I am not alone--that I have never been alone. I am reminded of the Presence that I have sensed these past months of grief and loss. I am reminded that I have a Comforter who holds me always and I am grateful.
The kids are off celebrating with other families. I knew when they were born that this day was coming but I always banked on sharing the empty nest with a spouse who loved me. Life didn't work out that way. I'd rather be lonely while truly alone than lonely in a dead relationship so I choose gratitude today. I choose to be grateful for God with me, for friends who understand my grief and for children who love me and though our family is vastly different this year than last, who still come together to celebrate and laugh. It is a good day because I am never alone.