Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas Eve. The candlelight service at the Bible church had ended. I stood, alone, out in the vestibule, watching the worshippers exit. I knew no one, except one woman, who was already engaged in conversation. When I next looked, she was gone.

As I turned to leave, to walk out of the candlelight into the darkness, a man blocked my way.

He smiled, reached out his hand, then said, confidently: “Have a joyous Christmas!”

I looked at him a long while. I could not smile. I finally said simply, “Thank you.”

His eyes seemed to focus on me, then he added, strongly, “God bless you.”

In my darkness I pondered this. I found I could only reply, “Thank you. I need it.”

I walked out, into the night.

As I was driving to my next destination, I pondered what I had seen at the Bible church. There was much congregational singing of Christmas carols. There were four families who reenacted the lighting of the four Advent candles. There was a prayer time for a couple headed for Ethiopa as representatives of the church. All was family-oriented, intimate, sincere.

My next stop was a church by the ocean in which I had been married years ago to my second wife. Memories.

In contrast, at this church all was organized, formal. Professional musicians played a larger part. It was a performance, complete with a sermon. One thing the pastor said stood out to me. He related how he had seen children reenacting the scene of Mary and Joseph's search for a room on the night Mary was to give birth. The boy who played the inn keeper, when asked if there were room for Mary and Joseph, threw open his arms wide, smiled and declared, "Of course, I have all the room in the world for you. Come on in!"

The preacher then made the application to us, the faithful. "No matter what you're going through this Christmas, God wants to be close to you. My prayer for you is that you will open your arms wide and let Him in."

At the end of the service I stood in line to thank the pastor. As I shook his hand, I said, "When I entered your church, I felt very low. However, all you presented here has bolstered my spirits. Thank you."

His face was very serious. He replied, "I'm glad you could be with us."

I walked out, again, into the darkness, returned home, went to bed.

The next morning, Christmas Day, I got up, went to the pictures of the woman I have loved for ten years, whom I shall call J. for Jewel, which is what she still represents to me. At each picture of J. and her family I said this, "Merry Christmas. I love you." And I cried. And cried. And cried.

I then drove in to the Catholic Basilica which I have been attending. The place was packed. I found a seat on the left side near the front.

It was a special service. A large choir in blue and white robes sang from the rear of the church. Two trumpets played, along with the Basilica's great pipe organ. We all sang the familiar Christmas carols. I felt uplifted, close to God, inspired. As we stood to sing, a white light shone through the stained glass window above me on my left and flooded me in a shaft of light. As I sang, I knew I was singing to give God glory. It was His day, the commemoration of the birth of His Son, the One Whose death made reconciliation with a holy, yet loving God possible. We sang of this. It was exhilarating!

A young woman came in late, a blond, dressed in black, blue with a white tassel. She sat on my left. Another woman came in with her son, Hispanic, and sat on my right.

When it came time to Pass the Peace, which means to greet those around you, I shook the Hispanic mother's hand, wished her a Merry Christmas, but I turned to the young blond woman, gave her a very long, strong hug, then also wished her, "Merry Christmas!"

That one hug symbolized all the love I have for J., but am not permitted to express in any tangible way. So, I demonstrated love, instead, to a stranger.

I prayed to God during this mass that He would guide me in the way I should go. If J. is not to return to me, will there be another to love? And if not, I assume, all love that I would lavish upon a human being will be directed, first toward God, then out to humanity as a whole.

While singing Christmas carols at mass, while giving one hug, while shaking hands with those around me, I finally felt joy deep inside on Christmas Day at the Basilica.

"Have a joyous Christmas!"


After mass, I drove to the Fairgrounds where a Christmas Day meal was being served to the homeless and any others who attended.

A few days earlier I had gone for a checkup to my cardiologist, to whom I had also sent a copy of my first post on this blog site. He knew I was headed to the Fairgrounds, to dine with the homeless.

He looked at me a long time, then stated, "You are emotionally homeless."

I nodded. "Yes, that's true."

The line at the Fairgrounds was very long. It stretched all the way across the room. Rectangular and circular tables filled the room. There was a table for face painting for the children. There was a Santa to hear their wishes. There was a free clothing table.

Once I filled my plate, I noted how the non-homeless, the more well-to-do, had saved many seats at the various tables for friends. So, I determined to eat outside in the open air with the homeless, and left the greedy to accumulate seats as they wished. There was room outside on the grass for me.

Four homeless people were already out there on the lawn: a young couple, two older men with beards. The sun shone down. The grass was a brilliant green.

A man walked by with a name tag on: B. I spoke to him, since he had come close, then stopped.

"Hello, B. Merry Christmas. I'm S."

"Yes, I know you. I've seen you before, at prayer."

"That could be. Where?"

He mentioned another church I had attended with J., until our breakup, until one Saturday morning I earnestly asked prayer for help for J. of the men gathered there.

I was informed, later, via E-mail, that my prayer for J. had called too much attention to myself. So I was thereby disinvited by an official to ever return to pray with the men on Saturday at that church.

And so, I have not returned.

B. and I conversed. He is married to a Jewess. They will be headed to Germany in February, where B. will teach in English in a Bible college there. He has yet to learn any German, but will take courses there.

B. remembered a prayer of mine from one past meeting. He said he was struck by my intensity. "You pray what you truly believe, deep down inside."


"It's intense. So different. Even frightening."


B. asked to pray for me. He prayed that God would lead J. back to me, if that is what God desires, but he asked that J. be lead close to God Himself first. I echoed that prayer.

I prayed for B., for protection, guidance, success.

His wife wants to go to Israel. "That might prove dangerous," I added.

"Not now, it's as safe a place as can be."

"Yes, but not forever."

I then left the Fairgrounds, wishing Merry Christmas to all whom I met on the way to my car.

"Have a joyous Christmas!"

Well, yes, without J., as merry as could be. Happy in song, happy in a long hug, happy in prayer.

The two days ended. Two days to remember.

Son of Shaphat

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