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!