The Solitary Place

Isaiah 35:1

It would be my first holiday alone, following the death of my husband. “It will be a difficult Christmas,” my friends told me solemnly, causing me to approach Advent with a kind of dread.

My friends were right, of course. There would be no secretive plotting of the children’s gifts, no laughing over the tree that looked so perfect in the lot and so wretched in our living room. And on quiet evenings when the fire used to synchronize the tangled memories of a hectic day, I would know only the deafening roar of my solitary place.

Christmas seems to have been a solitary business for those involved in the first Advent. Consider Mary, alone with the poignant knowledge that her child, born of God, was destined to die. Consider the wise men, alone as they trudged across the desert without affirmation, and old Simeon, alone as he languished in the Temple, yearning to see the Christ before he died.

Each awaited Christmas in solitude of heart—the solitary place that begs all company but Christ. Each worshipped Him, accepting the miracle of the Incarnation, of God becoming flesh.

Martin Luther wrote, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you… had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God.”

If we attempt to substitute the so-called goodwill of Christmas, its mingled tradition and merriment, for the presence of God, we will only be more savagely aware of the emptiness of life. For without Him life is a desert and joy a series of mirages.

Why are the lonely more lonely at Christmas? Why are the despairing more desperate? Can it be that Christmas makes us more aware of our poverty without God? That all the merriment of friends and family, all the tinseled accompaniments fail to fill the void and leave us lonelier still? When holidays end, even though touched with human warmth, and no splendor has occurred in the soul, the end seems worse than the beginning.

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad… and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1 KJV). No place is so solitary that God cannot fill it with Himself. Indeed, we come in our solitude and discover in Him everything.

Marlene Chase, Pictures from the Word

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