Are you alone?

Christmas Day Eucharist was always my favorite of the 12 Days of Christmas worship.

Entering the sacristy on a quiet morning. The church still full of the smell of incense from worship the night before. Celeste, the music director, and her family providing extraordinary music with at least three different instruments.

The people who came were always a mishmash of folks—some who had worked on Christmas Eve, people who wanted a quiet service, always a guest or two, and those alone for the day.

This year I’m one of those alone for the day.

I had planned to travel Christmas morning to Chambersville to be with my family. My vision isn’t great right now (cataract surgery in January!) so flying felt like the safest way to get there. My daughter was picking me up at the airport (masks on! windows open!). I couldn’t wait to be with my family (masked! outside whenever possible!). But I did the math (circles from pods! ages of us folk!) and listened to the beseeching of our mayor (please only be with your immediate family!).

Twelve hours or so before I was to depart, I cancelled my plane ticket.

Overcome with sadness, a kitchen full of baked goods and presents to be delivered in person, how was I going to do Christmas? Alone?

Granted, this is not my first Christmas alone. For the past twenty five years, Christmas Day was a work day, and family gatherings were usually scheduled for other times. Frankly, on a number of years, I was so tired from the Christmas worship marathon that napping like the baby Jesus in the manger was the most delicious way to spend Christmas Day. But this year, like so many of us, the feast I want was personal touch—being WITH people I love.

As I have done so many times this past nine months, I began to pirouette. If not this, where is the invitation?

Christmas Eve, I joined a friend for Instagram worship, lighting every candle in my house as I listened. Then my Bend family FaceTimed with me before and after I joined them via online worship at their church.

Still, I was so so very very sad when I woke up on Christmas morning. I texted with one friend and another and then got dressed and went to Eucharist at the Cathedral ( reserved seats! many feet apart! masked! no singing!)

As I entered, the usher who was to seat me in a safe place, asked, “One?”, and I heard, “Alone?”

The liturgy began with words I knew by heart. I began to cry, gently. Grief, yes, but also in delight at the beauty of the space, gratefulness for how much more I had than I didn’t have, and just the abundance of doing the best thing one could do on Christmas Day—adore Jesus.

Today is the second day of Christmas. I’m still a little sad. I’m still a little lonely. I’ll box up the presents I was going to hand deliver and mail to my dear family in north Texas. I’m going to drop by some folks’ homes that might enjoy some of the Christmas treats I had made to share with my family.

2020 is the year we all were invited to become prima and primo ballerinas and ballerinos as we mastered pirouetting. Yes, we lost a lot. As for me, in the midst of so much loss, I can see a longer list of what I am gaining as I, we, learn new dance steps.

And I am not alone.

We are not alone.

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