First Christmas.

I have written here, more than once, in defense of melancholy.

I think that it has a place. There is a time for sorrow and longing and solitude and loss.

My Christmas morning was quiet and sweet. I opened gifts from my parents and sister, called friends and relatives around the country and toasted a few on the other side of the world, already well into tomorrow. I relished every moment of it.

I spend much of my time alone, but I am not lonely.

This day, a year ago, he was rolling in the snow
With a younger brother in his father's yard.
Christmas break - a time for touching home
The heart of all he'd known, and leaving was so hard -
Three thousand miles away, now he's working Christmas Day
Making double time for "the minding of the store"...
Well, he'd always said he'd make it on his own
He's spending Christmas Eve alone.
First Christmas away from home.

However sweet my morning, however, in the back of my mind I thought of friends of mine. Especially vivid were my thoughts of a close friend who writes "A Life of Blessings."

She is spending the first Christmas in a long time without her love. Her husband is serving his country, an ocean away. Today is especially taxing for her.

I imagine that the frustration of the day is compounded by our culture's strong disapproval of melancholy. What better day to be sad, and have a good cry, than Christmas when your husband is overseas?

So I hope she finds time and respite in the day to own the sorrow that she feels.

She's standing by the train station, panhandling for change
Four more dollars buys a decent meal and a room.
Looks like the Sally Ann place after all,
In a crowded sleeping hall that echoes like a tomb
But it's warm and clean and free and there are worse places to be,
And at least it means no beating from her Dad
And if she cries because it's Christmas Day
She hopes that it won't show...
First Christmas away from home.

There are many Christmas stories with a measure of sorrow mixed into them.

Yes, this is a day of joy.

Our Savior is born!

But it is also a chance to reflect, and to miss those that are away.

He was born so that he could die--for us.

In the apartment stands a tree, and it looks so small and bare
Not like it was meant to be
The Golden Angel on the top, it's not that same old silver star
You wanted for your own
First Christmas away from home.

So I hope that as you continue through your busy holiday, you find a small opportunity for peace. Some quiet moment will offer itself to you and I hope you take it and send a prayer to heaven for those seperated from loved ones, from family, or from the basic necessities--a warm bed or a hot meal.

In the morning, they get prayers, then it's Crafts and tea downstairs
Then another meal back in his little room
Hoping maybe that "the boys" will think to phone before the day is gone
Well, it's best they do it soon.
When the "old girl" passed away, he fell more apart each day
Each had always kept the other pretty well
But the kids all said the nursing home was best
'Cause he couldn't live alone...
First Christmas away from home.

I have no passionate words of warning. I come bearing no encouragement that you feed a hungry child or clothe a homeless man.

I only hope that you will find a moment--even if it is no greater than the span of a single, solitary breath--in which you can hear the heartbeat of the world and think far beyond the borders of yourself, and embrace the heartache and love and passion and sorrow around you.

May God bless and keep you all throughout the season ahead.

In the Common Room they've got the biggest tree
And it's huge and cold and lifeless,
Not like it ought to be
And the lit-up flashing Santa Claus on top
It's not that same old silver star you once made for your own
First Christmas away from home.

Stan Rogers - First Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2008