years ago, I found myself frequently wondering what it was like to be
in Mary’s sandals as my husband and I anticipated the birth of our
second child, due to be born on December 31. We anticipated meeting this
little one. How would he look? What would her personality be like? What
God-given talents would be on display? It was a high-risk pregnancy,
due to the premature birth of our oldest child, so I spent more than 8
weeks on bed rest, which allowed plenty of time for my imagination to
work. I had mixed feelings of joy and concern—joy for this new life
growing and moving inside me and yet concern that this atypical
pregnancy might result in a challenge bigger than our ability to cope.
We joyously welcomed a healthy son weighing 8 pounds 4 ounces on
My husband and I learned a different kind of anticipation as we
parented our first son who entered this world 8 weeks earlier than
expected, tipping the scales at 3 pounds, 1 ounce. Our daily 90-minute
drive to and from the hospital to sit by our preemie’s side in the
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit during his first month of life taught us a
new kind of discipline and strength. “Alex” (not his real name) taught
us about himself by coming through two surgeries in that time span with
strength. We quickly learned that discomfort was not something he
tolerated! We also learned about overwhelming joy when finally holding
our squash-sized son when he was two weeks old, with all the medical
tubes attached! We have now spent 25 years anticipating what will come
next in life for Alex as he lives into life with cerebral palsy, a love
of words and numbers, an IQ well above average, and loneliness that
often takes the joy out of life for him.
Parents always anticipate and desire the best for their children.
And while we believe that both of our sons are beloved children of God,
we share the pain that loneliness brings to Alex’s life. As a person
with a physical limitation, it’s an ever-present loneliness that is
exaggerated during Advent by the busyness of folks around us. Sometimes
the large crowds at holiday events make it more challenging for him to
take part. While he does not prefer large groups of people, he greatly
enjoys chatting with folks individually or in small groups. Mainly, he
enjoys being with others because that informs him that he is appreciated
for who he is.
I’m reminded each year that The Longest Night falls only a few
nights prior to Christmas. There are many who struggle with loneliness,
darkness, depression, anxiety and so on during this Advent season. Yet
we turn our attention primarily to the brightness of Christmas rather
than the reality of the heaviness of life.
“The Lord is our righteousness” is the theme used in our
denomination’s Advent resource this year. It stresses that God is the
ultimate example of good or rightness in the world. The Bible gives us
many examples of God’s righteousness, extending from the Hebrews in the
Old Testament to the good news of Jesus in the New Testament. As we
anticipate celebrating Christ’s birth, it seems that we should also be
practicing the ways of justice and righteousness that Christ has
Who will connect with the lonely as a righteous act? How will
relationships with the marginalized be encouraged as an ultimate example
of good? There are many unjust situations in our society and the
loneliness experienced by some may seem like only a small part. Yet we
know of loneliness’s daily strength and how difficult it is to fight
May we dwell on ways to bring about more rightness to the lonely among us in this Advent season. May it be so.
Bonnie Miller serves on the board for Anabaptist Disabilities
Network. She has worked as an educator for much of her career, including
as a public school special education teacher for the past twelve years.
She is also familiar with advocacy for persons with disabilities by
raising a now-adult son who has cerebral palsy. She attends Waterford
Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind.