This is my second Christmas with no family and no friends, and I'm at the point where I'd lay down my life for someone who made me feel like he or she cared.This is one of the downsides of the secular aspect of Christmas that stresses holiday togetherness. It can be very hard on those who don't have friends and family to witness the merriment of those who do. However, it is important to remember that in some cases, the apparent happiness is a mirage, or at least, a collective self-delusion.
When I was in college and for several years afterwards, my family had literally picture-perfect Christmases. As the White Buffalo, an occasional guest at our Christmas Day dinners, once commented, the experience like living in a Christmas commercial for Neiman Marcus. From the moment that the guest arrived in the beautiful white marble foyer amidst the softly falling snow and was immediately handed a hot buttered rum by my grandfather, to the postprandial arrival of Big Chilly and his family to partake in the devouring of the pumpkin and pecan pies, everything was aesthetically perfect and utterly enjoyable.
Those gorgeous images are now pleasant memories. But the family is as dead as my grandparents, fractured by lies, greed, deceit, and sociopathic self-interest.
And yet, there is still no shortage of joy. We have new traditions, with new family members who have never known what they are missing. There is no snow; the grass is green as I look outside the window today. Instead of the dulcet strains of Handel piped throughout the vast house, I hear Maddens on the PS/3 in the next room. There is no one to serve hot buttered rum and no one will drink it. No one will arrive after dinner, their eyes bright with anticipation and their cheeks red with the cold outside.
But the ham will arrive, massive and steaming and looking like something out of an Asterix and Obelix comic. The wine will flow, white and red, and the egg nog will beat its predecessor hollow. A dash of kirsch will enliven the fondue and if the presents are not stacked halfway to the ceiling, the good cheer of the recipients will be in no way diminished, not even by comparison.
And yet, these new traditions too are an illusion. The children will grow. The butcher will retire. One day I will follow in the footsteps of that smiling server of hot butter rum.
The only thing that will remain, one thousand years from now, is the original reason for the celebration. It is the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we celebrate; that fact will remain as true tomorrow as it is today and as it was yesterday. And no celebrant of that holy birth can ever be alone, because she is bound into the great shining web of believers, past and present.
So don't allow yourself feel alone this Christmas season because you are not. Buy some toys and sweets and bring them to a shelter. Join the Salvation Army and help them feed the homeless. Go to one of the midnight services that will be held around the world on Monday, preferably at a strange church where you know no one, and permit yourself to be engulfed in the worldwide joy at Jesus Christ's birth. Even if you have no hope, remember that the Word became flesh in order to bring hope to the hopeless.