Monday, December 11, 2006

A Very Silent Night

I'm have trouble getting in the Christmas spirit. Heck, I always have trouble getting in the Christmas spirit. And this year I don't have the month-long academic siesta that usually provides the supreme jolliness in my holiday season. I'm trying though - going to the children's choir program at church, listening to the Christmas radio station, wrapping presents on Dec. 10, wearing my Santa hat around the apartment.

So as Johnny Mathis's version of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" cycles ad naseum through my head, I started thinking if this is really the most wonderful time of the year, and my mind runs across those who will never get in the holiday spirit this year. Or more precisely, those whose holiday spirit will be one of misery and not of joy.

I hear it said often that the holidays are a very difficult time for lots of folks. This has never really been the case for me, except the year Grandpa passed away a few weeks before Christmas, so this statement usually hits my face and bounces off into nothingness - the former part of the infamous "I am rubber, you are glue" assertion. This year though, it's hit home really hard, as I encounter person after person who is hurting, just hurting. The holidays only add to this pain, as the world tells us to run around in glee and joy and presents. It must be like Valentine's Day for a lot of singles except this time is's a month long and much more obnoxious.

I don't know what to do about this, as the holidays will be a time of great joy for me. My family will be under the same roof, healthy, for the first time since summer. Grandma is coming. And to top it all off, I learned today that I will have Christmas Eve off from work. So much anticipation, so many blessings.

Yet, my mind is haunted at night and in solitude by the empty chairs that will be around the Christmas tables of my friends. The family with an empty chair for a child who is passing time on Christmas Day in the deadly hornet's nest of Iraq. A co-worker who won't even put out another chair this lonely Christmas because her family lives in Massachusetts and someone has to be at Borders to sell gift cards on Christmas Eve and to redeem them on the 26th. Someone's first Christmas without a parent, the chair only filled with memories. Another Christmas without a child taken by cancer, the simple word "Why?" taking the seat instead. Multiple other co-workers going through Christmas alone for the first time, divorce papers seated where a committed spouse was once thought to have sat. My friend's boss who will have an empty high chair where a 2-month old child should be experiencing his first Christmas. The nanny, who put the child to sleep the night that he died, and the permanent empty chair that self-forgiveness will never take.

For these folks and so many more, Christmas night will be a little too silent.

Ignoring the abundant blessings God has given me would make me an ingrate. Ignoring the abundant pain of those around me would make me a robot. My prayer this holiday season is for balance, to be humbly thankful and humbly compassionate.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, behold, You are there.


Jenn Pappa said...

I've often been lonely or sad at Christmas. It's hard because as a Christian people always think Christmas should be my happiest point and there is no reason to be sad. But even though God has changed the world and that brings great joy, there are still so many things to mourn for in life. Jesus is described in Isaiah as "The Man of Sorrows" because his life is filled with pain and rejection. Lately I've learned to look at Christmas as a time of hope.. the first glimpses of the savior of the world and peace on Earth... the first glimpse of hope that all the mess of the world will pass away and be replaced by something so much better.

Good blog Ben :)

Oakley said...

I feel you in regards to all those who are victims of circumstance, sin, and misfortune. I also have to acknowledge that many of the people I work with and befriend are unhappy at Christmas time because of the choices that they make. If spending Christmas alone because you don't get along with your family, maybe it's time to look inside yourself to see if a little forgiveness is in order. A general prayer for the world that's in pain is never a prayer that goes unanswered. I guess in an ideal world, if all those who were up during Christmas tried to pick up one person that was down then all the fake commercialistic glee we are bombarded with would seem shallow by comparison. Loving always starts with at least one person helping another.