• Richard Parrish

Not Alone



Loneliness is a familiar feeling to me.


I was the youngest in my home. The age difference between my brothers and me was significant enough that it naturally created distance. Their interests were different than mine, and their friends were much older.


It’s not that they didn’t love me, but their curiosity was focused elsewhere.


Additionally, my family moved — a lot!


I recall in the 5th grade; I attended seven different schools in one year (in various States throughout America). By the time I could find my desk, it was time to locate a new town and school! Making friends wasn’t the problem — keeping them was.


Life events have a way of disturbing peace and intensifying our loneliness.


Death of loved ones, divorce, betrayal, economic, or employment uncertainty can easily disturb our tranquility and encourage isolation. Not all childhood memories of Christmas are bright and cheerful!


In anticipation of Christmas, I’ve noticed a number of things that rob me of peace. This Advent (waiting) time for me reveals a lot of memories: abandonment, loss, sadness, grief, a sense of rejection.


I watch others as they express glee and excitement, and wonder why I feel so alone?


Recently, I was asked to participate in an event for my community. It was promoted as “A Blue Christmas.” The evening was somber but sacred. Many in attendance were wanting to find some peace. Our loneliness required more than jolly jingles and glittering tinsel to make the season bright.


It was refreshing to receive permission to grieve our losses. It was comforting to recognize we are not the only persons whose peace was disturbed and who feel alone this season despite being surrounded by people.


Also, it was encouraging to remember: God — in the person of Jesus, entered the darkness and suffering of our world years ago. And, He still does! I need that reminder.


Not only does God enter our world in the person of Jesus, but He also identifies with — and willingly enters our loneliness and suffering. He readily offers us His abiding PRESENCE and PEACE that comforts us!


Don’t think I’m a Grinch! I am not one criticizing Christmas activities.


The eaves of my house already display Christmas lights. There are lit reindeer and Christmas trees in my front yard. Our tree is full of ornaments, topped by an angel!


However, these outward decorations serve to remind me of how I continue to need Christ’s presence and peace to reveal that despite how I feel — I’m not alone!


As I anticipate Christmas, I need to hear the words the angel spoke to Joseph, who had more questions than answers, problems than solutions, and fear than faith:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.⁠[1] [Emphasis mine]

Those unexpected, surprising words strengthened the heart of Joseph to trust that the impossible becomes possible when God is with us.”


In a few days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus the Savior of the World. His name is called “Emmanuel,” who is — and forever will be — the ever-present, never-ending, all-sufficient “God with us.”


No! I’m not a Grinch. I’m even known to sing Christmas carols from time to time. And this year (as in every year) you will hear me singing, gratefully and longingly:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and rescue captive Israel who mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God draws near.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.”

I’ll sing this song because for this lonely person I need the reminder of who gives me peace and assures me that I’m not alone — ever!


Prayer when lighting the fourth candle of the Advent wreath:


God of love, by Your Holy Spirit, prepare our hearts to become Your dwelling place and fill us with Your peace. Come, Emmanuel. May your presence be experienced in us. May others observe Your presence through us, now and forever - Amen.

1 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mt 1:23.