Earlier this week, some of my coworkers expressed a desire to know how I spent my day. Since I already have a fairly long post planned to talk about the specific content of the seminars I attended today, I thought that it would be best to divide the post into two lest it reach a forboding length, as one of my occasional readers from my local congregation likes to put it. Perhaps at the outset it would be best to say, for whose who do not already know, that I did not spend today celebrating Christmas, which is true for a variety of reasons. As someone who does my best to avoid festivals tinged with paganism, and someone whose understanding of the Bible leads me to recognize the fact that Jesus Christ was likely born in the autumn on or around the Feast of Trumpets, as near as can be determined, I see no reason to celebrate a day that is not Jesus Christ’s birth and that was only established as a way of pandering to the heathen peoples of the late Roman Empire who had various winter solstice festivals. As I have written about the subject at length elsewhere, I refer the curious reader to those references below .
So, seeing that I did not spend my day celebrating Christmas, nor did I spend my day at all around my physical family, seeing as none of them celebrate the day nor are any of them particularly near me geographically, I suppose it ought to come as little or no surprise that I spent my day around mostly friends and acquaintances among my own particular religious group, where the day only came up very rarely, most specifically in the opening prayer to the first seminar I attended this morning that expressed a desire that the world would celebrate the biblical Holy Days outlined in Leviticus 23, a belief fervently shared by the people who were in the room with me. The only other areas where it was easy to note what day today was to the rest of the world was the general absence of traffic along the highways and byways I took, and the fact that I ended up eating lunch at a McDonald’s in the Couv in the absence of better options, given that it was the fourth or fifth choice of the people I was eating with, all of us who earnestly sought better options and found all of them closed. I felt some compassion for those who had to work today, given the fact that almost all of them would have preferred to spend time with family or friends, to be sure.
Having spoken a bit about how I spent my day, I would like to comment a bit on some of the context of how I spent my day. Today was the first time I had ever been able to attend any of the seminars hosted by my local congregation for the Northwest Weekend that we hold every year . Every other time I have been in the Northwest to attend the weekend in the first place, I have had to work on the day that the seminars are held, but this year I had the day off and was able to and happy to attend them. I cannot be sure that everyone else there was happy to see me, especially because I am one of those people who tends to answer every question asked and even correct the speakers on minor factual discrepancies rather automatically, without any sort of conscious thought. In that regard, I am rather like a male version of Hermoine from the Harry Potter series, which I suppose could be a bit irritating for others who do not like hands so quick in the air or answers that so quickly come off the lips because they want to make others think and come up with answers themselves. I understand this, but few people tend to deal graciously with the presence of someone like myself in the setting of an interactive Bible Study, which can make it somewhat irksome and awkward for me, to add to the lengthy list of ways I tend to feel misunderstood and stigmatized in public contexts.
During one of the seminars, the speaker, who happened to be the relatively new pastor of my local congregation, quoted Mother Theresa as saying that the worst disease is loneliness. The context struck me as particularly poignant in terms of the timing of that. After all, one of the worst aspects of this time of year for some of us is the persistent loneliness of this period of time. From the massive focus on family in Thanksgiving to the cheering on of romantic love in the modern form of Lupercalia we know as Valentine’s Day, nearly everything about this season in the way it is portrayed relentlessly pushes groups of people, whether one thinks of family dinners, dates, or office parties. As someone whose social interactions are fraught with concern because of the sort of people I tend to hit it off easiest with and the barren wilderness that is my romantic life, this is a season that is particularly difficult for me. It would be even more difficult were it not for the fact that I have a decent social network of friends and surrogate families to spend time with to alleviate the terrible loneliness of my own existence. Loneliness is not merely about the absence of people, but the absence of partners, of intimacy, and of loving communication, all areas of my life that are painfully difficult. The fact that I and so many people I know sought to alleviate their own loneliness by spending the time together speaking and listening reminds me that those around me, however different their own quirks, are people deeply similar on levels beyond that of mere doctrinal agreement. But how are we to take the time and effort to feel less lonely despite the seriousness of effort we are willing to put to not be alone?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: