Christmas Eve is only hours away. There are so many joys to celebrate, and so many blessings to treasure, and yet the world reminds us in ways loud and quiet that life is also fraught with suffering and loss.
A man died, frozen to death, under a bridge in my hometown this week. His body was discovered several days after he died, covered in frost. His name was Robert Hissom. I didn’t know him, and the circumstances of his death suggest it had been a long time since anyone knew him.
This post is not about analysis or solutions, it is simply a recognition that this man was once someone’s baby. Somewhere things went horribly wrong for Robert. Some people say he was probably mentally ill, that he was an addict, an alcoholic, a “loser.” These things are either speculation or opinion at this point; regardless, they have nothing to do with the sadness that comes over the heart and mind at his lonely death. What is certain is that he was once a little boy who played, and went to school, and had friends, and had dreams. He wanted to be loved, and protected, and to grow up to have a great life.
The happiness associated with Christmas is tempered with the understanding that the babe faces a solitary and agonizing death. If Robert’s story speaks to you in any way, please consider one more gift commitment this holiday season. In Charleston, West Virginia, I recommend contacting Covenant House to find out how money, advocacy, time, and donations of food or clothing can help someone in trouble. If you live elsewhere, please contact the nonprofit in your community that works to address chronic homelessness.
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Image credit: Social Exclusion Housing