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Written by Jimmie Burroughs Email this article to a friend
It is Christmas Eve 2011, and my dog and I just took a walk down main street in the little island town of Cedar Key, Florida. It is about dusky dark as I stroll along, with not a car stirring. Only a couple of cars are parked on the street, a street which runs only a few hundred yards in length. But suddenly out of nowhere, a kid comes swishing down the middle of the street on a skate board and soon disappears into the darkness. Now, once again, the town is completely deserted. As I gaze up toward the night sky, only the North Star is clearly visible; there is enough moisture rising from the ocean to give it a cross like shape.
In my imagination, I’m wondering what might have been on this deserted street on Christmas Eve over a hundred years ago, around the turn of the century when most of the buildings were constructed. The buildings look very old and tired now, and most of them are listed on the national historical register. The paved streets and the lack of hitching posts are probably the only difference from what it must have looked like at the turn of the 20th century.
Who knows, perhaps at this very same hour, there may have been a horse drawn carriage or two making their way down this lonely street on their way to visit friends, or on their way to a Christmas Eve party. I try hard to imagine how it must have been to have lived then. I know that whoever might have been out on that night so long ago has long since been gone.
So tonight it is just me and my dog, the only two stirring on this Christmas Eve night, and I find myself standing in front of the Island hotel, as it is called, which was constructed in 1858 and has weathered many a storm. As my mind continues to ramble, I wonder who might have been lodging here 150 years ago on Christmas Eve. What were their names; what did they do and why were they here.
There is a large neon sign in the window that says “open“. As I peer through the window, the lights are on, but rather dim, and there is not a soul in sight. I’ve never been inside the hotel, but as I look in I notice that the ceiling and walls are constructed of planking, the same sort of material that would have been used 150 years ago. Perhaps it is the same. The counter looks very old also, like it could have been the original.
We turn around, my dog and I, and begin to walk slowly back to my jeep, which is parked at the other end of the street. The street’s still completely deserted. We walk past a couple of buildings that are boarded up and look like they have been vacant for years. They still look fairly stable but in bad need of restoration.
I’m feeling just a bit lonely by this time, and just pondering, as I walk down this deserted street; what is life all about anyway? So many others have also passed this way before, perhaps a little lonely also, and now have met their end; I wonder if they also had some of my same thoughts as they trudged along.
Many Christmas Eves, that found my wife and I busy placing the kids gifts under the tree, after they had gone to bed, and early Christmas mornings, have come and gone. The memories of those joy filled times came drifting across the shadows of my mind as I walked along; my kids busy opening their gifts around the tall green Christmas tree; just my wife and I and the kids, enjoying Christmas with a fire glowing in the fireplace and Christmas music in the background.
The kids are grown and gone and have children of their own. My lovely wife has passed away and is only a lingering memory. So tonight, it is just me alone in this seemingly, far away deserted little island town, with my thoughts and memories, and with my little dog companion, walking down a dark and vacant street.
This could be just another sad story about life, but it isn’t; there is a glorious hope, because tomorrow the sun will rise again on Christmas day and we will join together across the world in a celebration that answers that question, “What is life all about anyway?” On this glorious day some 2,000 years ago the savior was born. He came to this earth to sacrifice his life on an old rugged cross, so we could be forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life.
While the joy of those past Christmases, with wife and kids, are gone forever, my hope remains in the joy of what Christmas and all of life is really about, and that is knowing Jesus the Lord, a peace that passes all understanding, that never ends and drives away loneliness.
The mind sometimes wants to pull us into a state of loneliness because of circumstances but that is not God’s plan. We can be alone or in a state of aloneness which is apposite of loneliness. Loneliness depends on others to fill the gap and make one happy while aloneness faces life with the challenge to fulfill God’s purpose. We are all alone in a sense but we are not all lonely.
Yes, life is filled with many experiences and stages. Things are ever changing; many happy experiences, along with sad ones, come and go. Life begins and ends. People part and go their separate ways and everything seems so temporal. However, in the midst of all this change there is a lasting hope in someone who is the same yesterday, today and forever and that is almighty God. A relationship with God is the only thing that makes sense of this ever changing world. It is the only thing that stays the same, and it is the only thing that we take with us when life on earth is over. During this season of lights, why not establish a relationship with God and see for yourself what a difference it makes in what otherwise can be a dreary, disappointing world.
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