We sat in a row by ourselves.
Christmas lights had been artistically arranged on the stage. The staff was adjusting their microphones and getting ready to begin the Christmas Eve service. The worship team was already in place. And hundreds of people, families and groups of friends, were streaming in the door.
And we, the new family, hardly knew a soul.
For over a decade we’d spent the 24th at a Christmas Eve service at the church we had gone to for 12 years. We had sat in long rows next to both old friends and family. In our old church I could look around the small room and know, at least by sight, every face.
But this year everything was different. Six months before we had left that familiar church and now we were in a new place and everything thing about it, especially at Christmas, felt foreign.
Our tiny family filled up only one part of one row. We knew no one in the seats to our left or right. We didn’t even know the others across the auditorium.
On top of that, it was also the last Christmas we were spending in our home. Next to the gifts by the tree were piles of packing boxes waiting to go.
Waiting to be filled.
Waiting to leave.
We felt alone in so many ways.
I grabbed Chad’s hand in a desperate attempt for some kind of human interaction and held it on my lap. My daughters were wearing Christmas dresses no one would ooh-and-ahh over. My husband looked firm in his decision to be here and if I could have seen myself I think I would have seen fear, worry and resignation in my eyes.
O Holy Night.
Joy to the World.
Of course they were the same songs we’d sung everywhere. From caroling as kids to driving to look at Christmas lights last week, this music was part of our Christmas culture and had been ingrained in each of us.
Unto us a Child is born.
Unto us a Son is given.
The same verses that we’d spoken aloud 364 days ago in the last Christmas Eve church service we now spoke aloud here.
Different church. New people. Same Savior. Same Christmas.
A young person showed up at the end of our row and held out a lit candle. We transferred the flame, wick to wick, down the row. And people we didn’t know minutes ago were somehow a part of the same community of worshipers that we were. And because of Jesus, we were a part of them.
I stood there with my tiny family, foreign in this odd place, and with the same candles we’d used for a decade in our old, safe place we felt illumined.
It’s okay to feel alone at Christmas. It’s okay to feel out of place and out of sorts. It’s okay to be depressed. But I want you to know that you are special. Because of a common Savior who has come as a baby, you belong. You belong right where you are. You are NOT a foreigner. You are not alone. You are part of a community and you are illumined.Leave a Comment
Betty Draper says
Sarah, what a honor God has given you as you step out of your comfort zone. Even though He there when the Father created earth, it’s not really His home, heaven was His comfort zone. He on purpose left it so we would never be along no matter where you worship or live. He so understand that alone feeling though, remember the garden when the disciples slept instead of staying awake to pray with Him, oh He understands.
My husband always says don’t pound the tent stakes too deep we are sojourners here , not dwellers. Where ever God has you dwelling it’s all temporary, soon He will shout and take us to His home and all we have held onto here will be left behind.
When we went to Bolivia, S.A. our daughter was ninth grade, she became very homesick for america, so much so we thought we might have to come home as the depression because deeper and deeper. She was mad at God for taking her away from all she was comfortable with, we said it’s ok to be mad at Him, he is big enough to handle it. We told her being homesick was not a sin, Jesus understood completely…He was homesick for heaven the whole 33 years he lived here, He understand not fitting in. Tara finally came out of her homesickness and loved her years in Bolivia and now is a missionary her self in Papua New Guinea telling her children some of the same truths we told her, this world is not our home, we just a passing through.
God orders the steps of His children and only walking those steps do you find real contentment, it’s not n a place, a people, even a ministry….only in Him, life is in Him.
Sarah Markley says
What an amazing family legacy! Thank you so much for sharing that story. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Sarah, I was born and raised in the Philippines. Me and my daughter (then 1 year old) came here in the U.S. to be with my husband. I have no family here – but God have blessed me with loving and wonderful in-laws. I am also blessed to have a church family who welcomed me with loving arms.
I came here because of love, not really knowing what is ahead of me. Trusting fully in God’s will have helped me a lot. I can say that I am a better, more confident person and closer to Him than I could ever be.
God Bless you and your family. Merry Christmas!
All good things,
Sarah Markley says
Charina, that’s beautiful. What an act of bravery and courage! God bless you too!
Your post hit home….last night my husband and I were discussing 2 new job opportunities that he has been presented with just yesterday. One is six hours away, one we would have to move to the other side of town. Both require us to leave our church and my little one’s school. It hurts. I am all too familiar with the “tent stakes” perspective, as this would be somewhere around our 13th move, many which have been significantly farther, but this one is the one I am having a hard time with. I just understand. Sometimes God just knows best, right? Doesn’t mean it’s always just easy, though. Thank God that He knows. God bless you and your family! Have a blessed Christmas!
Sarah Markley says
Thank you! Praying that your family finds the right place and makes the right decision whatever that may be. Have a happy Christmas!
Jan-Western Gal says
Thank you for the message – it made me cry because I’m always sad at Christmas and I really have no reason to be. I just want my family (all over the US) to be happy and have the resources to live..God Bless
Danielle Jones says
12 years ago next month, my husband, 3 1/2 month old daughter and I moved to NC from NJ. I felt like all was lost and I did spend months in depression… Although at the time, I didn’t know that. It took us years to truly make friends and find a Meeting House, but God was with us the whole time. I look back and see His finger prints everywhere. Thank you for the reminder He is always where we are.
Thank you for sharing your heart. It resonates with my own this Christmas and this past year. I have no family except my husband and he has chosen a divorce that I don’t understand. We still live in the same house and the struggle has been painful. He will be with his new friends. I will be going to church sitting in the pew alone, knowing that next Christmas I won’t even have these friends as I will have to move from the area in order to afford to live. Moving to the unknown, as I don’t know where I will be moving to. Trusting God for all His promises and to be in the unexpected.
Sarah S. says
Sharon, I am so sorry for where you are. What a painful place to be. May God bring you comfort.
Beth Williams says
Praying for God’s peace & comfort as you go through these trials!
May Jesus give you His perfect love & grace to endure this!!
Oh Sharon, I can totally relate to what you feel, not knowing how things are going to be tomorrow. I will pray for you and your marriage. You are not alone!
Paola Rarick says
Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know why, but I get depressed every single major holiday. I just don’t get it. It frustrates me because I have nothing to be depressed about. Thanks you saying it’s okay and that our Savior is all we need!
Sarah S. says
Oh, yes. This is precisely where I am this year. Six months into a new home. Having spent so much time and energy getting teenagers settled in (and worrying/ praying about it) at their new school that I have invested virtually nothing in relationships for me. Except for Jesus. Jesus and I talk a lot. Which is as it should be, I suppose. But, yes, I am so very, very lonely, yet so very, very grateful for this season. That He came. That I have a hope of a life beyond this one. That this isn’t all that there is. And that He walks with me through all of it.
You express it so well. My wife and I have moved 28 times in 40 years of marriage. We’ve “been there, done that.” And we both long for one more visit to our childhood homes and churches… but they no longer exist as we remember them. God has placed us now in the mountains of Southern California, our new home, and our first Christmas here. And yet we are home, here with new friends, with new doors, with new opportunities.
Blessings to you and your family, Sarah.
Pam Lawhorn says
I have been reading encourage for only a few short months, I have to say my heart has been touched deeply by the writers who have choosen to be valunerable in order to give a little glimps of hope, love, and that even though life throughs a glitch in our world its ok to be human and allow the tears to flow and in that process God who is our Father is right there to dry our tears and to let us know when caos hits we can we can take Christmas and go to another room and when the drama is over come back and join in with the good
Beth Williams says
This Christmas I have hubby home with our 2 Iguanas (large lizards). Tomorrow my widowed father, hubby and I will go to church and then to in-laws for Christmas dinner.
Praying for everyone who is contemplating or having to move in this holiday season. Change is never easy, especially at Christmas. We need to keep Jesus at the center of the Holiday & remember it is His birthday we are celebrating & He is always with us through good times and bad. That is the only thing that will get us through any rough times in life!
God bless & have a Merry Christmas!
Thank you for this, Sarah. When we do feel alone, it is so very easy to forget that most of the world is feeling this way, too… and will until Jesus’ hand will be the one we can hold. Merry Christmas to you.
I to attended my first christcringle service today at what has only been our church home for the last 10 months. It was strange but good. Life has changed dramatically the last years and im still reeling from some of the emotional fall out my heart is still a long way from healing. Yet wherever i go to worship i know my peace is found in Jesus and he will be with me anywhere and everywhere.
Sarah, thank you for writing this and reminding me that it’s more than tradition and familiar faces… I too understand that foreign feeling of a new church and new memories.. but you are right to remind us that we can worship and share in the Christmas spirit because of the joy He’s given His covenant people, and we’re scattered far and wide! What a wonderful thing to consider during this waiting season.. Merry Christmas to you.
Thank you for your post, Sarah. It was just what I needed this Christmas Eve!
Lisa H says
You brought tears to my eyes as I have lived this but without a husband to hold hands with. I was the lonely one in the pew for so long but God slowly surrounded me with some amazing friends who love me and my children as their family. I used to become so depressed as soon as the holidays rolled around. Thanksgiving would come and I would wish for January 1st to arrive! But God has been working overtime inside of me the past few years to get me to this place I am in right now. The deep deep sadness that used to swallow me whole each year is now just an ache deep in my heart but it no longer consumes me or paralyzes me. I’ve accepted I will never have that Christmas wish I wanted for so many years. That was not going to happen but I couldn’t accept it. Now I can see that what God has for me instead is so much more than I wanted originally. The sadness and depression is still there but I believe the table have turned in who has control over whom. They have lost and they do not control me any longer!
Merry Christmas to your family!
Thank you for sharing that story! That was just what I needed, it was such a blessing. Thank you, thank you, thank you…