You Are Not Alone
Disclaimer: I write this knowing that many of you who are good enough to read my blog may feel uncomfortable with faith. Know that I understand your questions, your concerns. I’ve been there myself, so many times. Please don’t feel you need to read this. But I needed to write it. So, to those who are willing to indulge me… I thank you. Merry Christmas to you all.
Christmas Eve is usually my favorite day of the whole year.
Not this year.
I’m not entirely sure why it seemed so… off. We were surrounded by people. We were extravagantly gifted. We were focused on the ‘right things’.
But, somehow, a thousand things clumped together to make me wish, so fervently, that this day – this season – be over.
I’m starting to hate Christmas.
Yes, I said it. And though most of you are thinking, that chick be loca, a few of you just pumped your fist in the air with a sigh of finally, someone else thinks the same thing.
So many of my family have married Americans that we’ve been celebrating both thanksgivings as long as I can remember. This year, David’s family graciously agreed to celebrate their biggest holiday in Canada. And, as I put together the mandarin orange-pecan salad, a member of my adopted-in-love (not law) stood in my kitchen and told me that Thanksgiving was secretly their favorite holiday.
My head snapped up. Not Christmas?
No, not Christmas.
My eyes begged them to continue.
Christmas is too much. It’s just so… every year, someone has a meltdown. It has to be perfect. The gifts, the food… it’s just so overdone, that I actually kind of (the voice dropped to a whisper) don’t like it at all.
I said I understood, but I didn’t quite.
But today – today, I do.
Before you go sympathizing with me and think, oh no, we better cheer Lana up for Christmas, wait and hear me out, here.
My children are finally asleep. I’m moving slowly through the kitchen, gathering together my food for our work potluck tomorrow, because, yes, I work Christmas Day, and no, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, I think its going to be perfect, because working this holiday somehow reminds me that things aren’t what the world makes them out to be and people need to be helped at Christmas.
But in these silent moments I moved to our kitchen window and watched the rain – not snow – drip from our gutters (yes, we really should get that looked at) and started to cry.
So many of us have high expectations for Christmas. I think I’m probably one of them, though every year I try to drop those expectations. Every year, I tell myself, it’s not that big a deal. And it isn’t. But then it ends up being a big deal anyways.
I couldn’t explain it, it didn’t make sense, and I knew it was so far from true, but as I looked out the window, I was overwhelmed with a sense of feeling so, so alone.
Some of you have never felt that way. Some of you have, and some of you are smarter than I am and figure out sooner than I did that the feeling is an illusion.
Somewhere, someone understands what its like to be you. And if they don’t, then most of us have at least someone around who wants to understand what its like to be us.
But as this irrational feeling came and went, my mind flashed back to earlier tonight, back to the reason I love Christmas Eve, to the Book we open every year and remember –
This is exactly how Mary must have felt.
Many of us have known the panic of, my goodness, I’m going to be a mother. Some of us have welcomed this panic with an equal amount of sheepishness, scandal, or even… shame. But this woman – who was in reality a teenage girl – had all of these feelings at once.
And she wasn’t even sure her partner understood.
Whether or not he did, he stayed with her. He walked with her. I’m not sure if that would have made her burden lighter or heavier. Would it help to have the burning gaze of a man who’s not quite sure if you betrayed him with another, for each moment of those nine months? Would it help to bounce along a bumpy road on a donkey, with your stomach sticking out so far you’re not sure exactly where your center of gravity is anymore?
Did she ever fall off that donkey? And did Joseph ever catch her?
We don’t know, of course.
But I do know that this woman – more than almost any other woman who’s ever lived – knows what its like to feel alone.
But she wasn’t.
Pregnant mommas are rubbing their bellies as they read this, perhaps even swaying back and forth. Because we know, from a very early point in our pregnancies, that we are not alone.
I remember working one night shift, before I’d told anyone I was pregnant with Noelle. I was about eleven weeks along, and I had to help lift a patient. I’d done everything correctly, I’d used correct body mechanics, and yet a twinge in my body made me wonder afterwards, if I had done something to threaten that new life.
I walked to the break room and put my hand on my not-showing-yet pregnant belly.
Are you still there, baby? I whispered.
And she flipped.
As a mat nurse, I know I shouldn’t have felt this. I know it’s not possible until at least sixteen weeks.
But I did feel it.
And I took it for the reassurance it was: I’m still here, Mommy.
Every once in awhile, I’ll go around the house looking for the kids. And I usually ask Noelle where she is first, because, let’s face it, she’s more direct and easier to pin down than her sister.
Something clenches in me every time I hear her soft voice: I’m here, Mommy.
I wonder what it felt for Mary to have the thing that brought such scandal also bring her… company, for the baby who raised so many eyebrows to also wrap her in comfort.
That tension between the way things look and the way they actually are? Mary understood that. And perhaps she, more than anyone, understood that the gentle peace of the child within merely represented the life-changing peace He would offer to the whole world.
Prince of Peace.
And so I realized, just today, that this thing we’ve made Christmas to be is not what it was meant to be.
And no, it’s not the traditional, who cares about stuff if you have friends? It’s not a Frank Capra movie, or the heart-warming idea that every man is a success who has friends.
Those are all good things, of course. But if even Hollywood can tell us that Christmas is more about togetherness than things, then we’ve missed something – something else altogether.
Though Christmas is more about people than things, sometimes being surrounded by people masks the reason togetherness means anything at all.
Those of you who feel alone at Christmas?
You might understand it more than the rest of us.
Because that aloneness was exactly why that little baby came.
And with His arrival, before He could even speak, He said: you are not alone.
So to each of you who are wondering, which Christmas is my Christmas? And, will I ever get to be a part of all that good stuff they show on TV? Or even, what’s wrong with me that I don’t get this holiday? Am I that messed up?
Or even for those of you who ache, because you are separated from the ones you love?
I am telling you, you are ahead of the rest of us.
You are who Christmas was made for.
I hope you hear that. I hope you embrace it.
And I hope you know, you are no longer alone.
Because I do.
And that’s why Christmas Eve is still my favorite day of the year.