Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas from a Single Point of View

With Christmas a short week away from today, I've been faced with the same circumstance I am faced with every Christmas. Or at least I have been since both parents have passed away.

No immediate family with whom to spend the holiday.

I am an only child, and because I have never married, I have no siblings, no children, and no spouse. My nearest relatives, cousins I dearly love, are a day's drive away. Hardly convenient to drop in on Christmas Day or to have over.

When my mom passed away on December 22nd many years ago, Christmas as I knew it, would never happen again. The three of us always celebrated on Christmas Day by a big breakfast and then leisurely opening our gifts. Later that day, we would sit down to a festive dinner, usually standing rib roast. We were small, but enjoyed the day and each others' company.

Needless to say, the year Mom died, Dad's and my Christmas was unique. By the time the next year rolled around, Dad had remarried to his childhood sweetheart (as often happens) and had moved back to his hometown in Ohio. That year, my new step-mom and Dad made the trip to my home and the traditions of Christmas Day carried on with me doing the entertaining and cooking. But, by the next year we reached an impasse. She wanted to be home with her nephews and I didn't want to spend time with people I hardly knew. So, I courageously decided to make my own tradition and had friends in after church on Christmas Eve.

I carried on that tradition for many years, always inviting church singles who had no plans. Sometimes we had a living room bursting at the seams and other times just three or four. Then I'd spend Christmas day with one of my best friends whose family had celebrated the night before. But about five or six years ago, that friend passed away from cancer.

All things change as seasons come and go, and several years ago I stopped the Christmas Eve party when I accepted an invitation to spend the holiday with a good friend and her family in Wisconsin. This became my new normal for several years . . .until last year when God strongly impressed on me I was to not go anywhere for Christmas, but to stay home and spend the day in quiet reflection and prayer.

After letting the thought resonate for several days to see if it would go away, I decided that I needed to obey. During that day I prayed over every aspect of my life from my writing, to relationships, ministry and health. And I received a last minute invite to come to dinner at a friend's in the late afternoon. It was as though God said, "Okay, you obeyed me and now I'll give you some fellowship to round out the day." It was the best Christmas ever. And something I needed, because I had no idea what challenges lay ahead in 2009 that needed that prayer covering.

This year I've been wondering if God would want me to do the same thing. Was it a one-time deal or was it going to be my new tradition? I went on the premise that I would try to do something meaningful. To that end, another single woman and I thought it would be good to help serve a meal to the homeless on Christmas Day. Much to my surprise, as I called around to various agencies, Christian and non-Christian, I could find no one who was holding such an event. Only Pacific Garden Mission, an outreach to the homeless in downtown Chicago, was having a meal and they had "more volunteers than they could handle." With that idea dropped, I still sought out God, asking what do you want me to do? One by one, things I tried to put together that would put me with other people, fell through.

Even my friend who invited me to dinner last year will be going out of town this year. As a single, I have always tried to reach out to other singles so they aren't alone on the holiday and yet, as I pondered this, I realized no one was reaching out to me. In conversation about this with a friend, she said that Christmas is a family day, and asked how many people would consider inviting someone into a family circle where the guest knows no one but the friend? What kind of fun would that be for the single, and that person's presence might be uncomfortable for the other family guests. I'd never thought about that. Of course, that's not true of everyone. Nothing is. But it made sense to me.

I reminded myself that I do have family within the family of God, my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Last weekend I enjoyed a lovely Christmas with a very dear and precious friend before he left to spend the holiday with his family in another state. And this past week, my Bible Study group had our Christmas gathering where I entertained a dinner party and present exchange. Next week I'm going to two Christmas worships, one with friends and one alone.

So again, this year it will be me and God together for the day. A special time in which I will not be alone at all, but spending it with Him, my heavenly Father. Perhaps this is my new normal. That's okay. I can't think of anyone better to spend the day with than Him whose birth we celebrate!

No matter if you are alone like me, or have family coming from every direction and may have to put up with your Aunt Hortensia's penchant for talking too much or Uncle Amos's always atrocious gift that will end up at the next White Elephant party you attend, I pray that you embrace your circumstance and thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus.

Hallelujah! Christ is born!


Bonnie Calhoun said...

You could always bake a birthday cake for Jesus! I'm sure your favorite would be His favorite too!

We have birthday cake and ice cream and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas!

Ane Mulligan said...

I wish we lived closer. We'd have a great time.

We got adopted by another family where the husband is a good friend of our son. They too left family in NY, so we celebrate Christmas Eve together with a wonderful meal, cooked by the men. :)

Christmas Day is leisurely and lazy. However, this year, I plan to spend more time in prayer. A good reminder, Pam. After all, it's the King's birthday celebration.

Amy Tate said...

I wonder how the Lord truly feels about tradition? What does the word tradition mean in eternity? I understand that emptiness all too well. I know what it feels like to mourn over lost traditions and the memories that once filled my heart with joy. The older I get the more I realize that nothing stays the same. A few years back, I was so depressed that I couldn't celebrate anything but Baby Jesus, and you know, it was the most meaningful Christmas I've ever experienced. Jesus is so complete, isn't He? He reaches even the hidden hurts. I pray that your Christmas will be the most magical you've ever experienced because God, our LORD and Savior, chose to celebrate with you in your home!

Angela Breidenbach said...

Thank you, Pam, for sharing this. I, too, feel a bit odd this year with so many changes in our lives. I'm one of those people that invites others in whether they know anyone else or not. My home is always open. But you know, this year I think I would like a day with Jesus to simply be. I wish you a beautiful day of simply being.
Much love (and you are always welcome up here in Montana :-) )

Anonymous said...

This was such a timely post, Pam. You knmow as our family has grown larger and the grandkids are older, some with their own families, I've suddenly realized how stressful it is for most of them, trying to get together with everyone. I've made a decision about next Christmas. On Christmas Eve, I'll cook and whoever wants to can come over whenever for a meal, dessert or just to visit. On Christmas Day, my adult blind son and I will go to the civic center where I'll help serve the community dinner. We can eat our main meal there and later spend the day relaxing and eating leftovers. When my kids were growing up we stayed home for Christmas and we loved it. It's time they learned what a relaxing stress free Christmas is like. And I will be able to help the people of my community.
I'm hearing so many people talking about changes this year. And so many more people are giving of their time and finances. I think God is doing something in us. I know He is in me. Have a very blessed Christmas, Pam. Love, Frances

Jean Fischer said...

I just found your blog today. We have so much in common. I am an author, and I live in WI not far from Lake Geneva. Like you, I am alone. My parents have died, I'm an only child; never married, no children. My nearest relatives are cousins who live out of town. I spend my Christmases alone with the Lord, and I've learned to prefer it. I reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and spend it with the "guest of honor." I have plenty of get-together with friends during the holiday season, and that works out fine.

It's nice to meet you, Pam! I'll be reading your blog often.