Earlier today an acquaintance gave me pause when she remarked that the Christmas season and New Year’s are lonely times for singles.
I would agree based on my own experience as someone who is single and would like to be married, especially these past few days when I traveled to Christmas Mass and several other celebrations without a significant other and have been avoiding plans for New Year’s.
It’s easy to be caught up in the expectations of a “perfect Christmas experience.” The narrative of consumerism deludes you and I into thinking that buying more will make us feel good or is the only way to let people know we love them and in this way will never be lonely.
It is also a great temptation to think we are alone in our loneliness.
The narrative from Scripture offers comfort and challenge. Mary and Joseph knew loneliness when they struggled to find a place to sleep and birth their child. From the beginning, celebrating the birth of Christ has been about knowing loneliness, but also living in joyful hope, regardless of whether or not you are single, married or a vowed celibate.
Loneliness is inherently a part of this season for everyone.
My sister is an incredible mother with a wonderful husband and two beautiful children, but she has serious health issues. It can be a lonely struggle to be strong for her immediate family while she waits for a diagnosis.
Forced to be away from their kids and grandkids on Christmas for the first time, my mom and dad are taking care of my Granddad’s house and his personal business while also grieving his recent death.
While I was studying in Jerusalem in the spring of 1998, a dear friend sent me a letter that included the following quote [I think it is either from Dorothy Day or Thomas Merton, but I am not sure]:
All of us have a yearning for love. Deep down buried beneath the clutter of our days, there is in every person the longing for community. But there is a loneliness that persists in the midst of others, essential isolation that belongs to any commitment or vocation. There is a kind of loneliness to which Christ invites his friends. The pain is very great, but very endurable, because He who lays on the burden also carries it.
In our search to for people to share life with, whether it be in friendship or the sacrament of marriage, you and I will never find anyone who will completely take our loneliness away, but we will find people to help us carry the burden and prick our consciences.
How do you experience loneliness? How do you see others experiencing loneliness? Where do you find joyful hope?