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As I move though the season of Advent this year, my waiting and anticipation of the birth of Christ has had an eagerness to it that feels large. It is expectant.

Today I traveled from Holland, Michigan to New York City. The handful of times that I have visited New York City or other cities of note like Chicago, or Washington D.C., or Bangalore, India it has seemed obvious to a bumpkin like me that things are different here. Certainly, the largeness of a city, and the pace of a city, and the noise of a city are stark differences. But today, in the airport, and in the city, I find myself very aware of the people. People, people everywhere; going somewhere. Everywhere you look there are people sitting, walking, working, and bumping your shoulder just a bit while they are moving onward.

I know if I looked around more carefully, and if I listened, I would see people talking on their phones placing lunch orders and discussing business plans. I would see people laughing over a cup of coffee. I would see people walking their dogs and patting them on the head. I think I would see moms and kids, holding hands to cross the street. I would see an Uber driver help someone with their suitcase. I would probably see someone who has a very bad cough and wishes they could have stayed home in their bed. I imagine I would see someone crying because their dad died, or their boyfriend broke up with them, or because they are scared about paying the bills this month. And, if I could look below the surface even more, I think I would see the dull ache of loneliness around the hearts of many an individual.

I spend much of my life at home, in and around Holland, surrounded by people. It may just be my kids, my husband, a couple dozen work colleagues, and my parents surrounding me most days, but I am rarely alone. I visit the library and the grocery store, and I go to church. If I walk my dog around the neighborhood, even in Holland, at 6am, I usually see at least one other person outside. I am never alone. While this could simply be a motherhood thing, or a season of life thing, I think many of us would be hard-pressed to spend a day in complete solitude.

Today, I milled around the airport among the masses, and I sat in airplane rows among many. A guy I had never met carried on a two hours conversation with me all the way to La Guardia. Another guy named Frank drove me to my hotel after that, and with minimal prompting told me a fair amount of his life story. Now, within the city, I managed to keep the pace with dozens (hundreds?) of people rushing onward to somewhere else as I went for lunch. I thought to myself, that one might never ever be alone in a city. Even now, I’m sitting in a hotel room, listening to horns honking 28 floors below, and I can sense that the movement of masses continues.

We are rarely alone, but many are lonely. We are surrounded by people but feel crushed by feelings of isolation. People sitting next to you in a doctor’s office, or on the bus, or at the desk next to yours might be held in the clutches of despair, feeling unrelatable and friendless. In fact, you yourself may feel this way.

This is why my Advent anticipation feel so expectant. I’ve been thinking about John 1:14 this week. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It is with great and grateful expectancy that each one of us, and most especially the lonely among us, should anticipate the birth of Jesus. What a relief to think about a savior who comes to be with us. God did not deal with our brokenness by rushing past us, or even by restoring us from far off in the heavenly realm. Rather, God sent the savior into our midst.

In Advent we are eager and expect because we get to welcome the savior into our lives here on earth. Every person is guaranteed companionship, relationship, and love. It is a great miracle that God would come into our lives this way and handle our brokenness and sin in such a tender and personal fashion. God saw the despair and the loneliness and isolation that we lived in and first and foremost sent Jesus to come and live with us. The healing of our loneliness and isolation began in relationship as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

I listened to two men tell me their stories today. That first man, on the plane, didn’t even tell me his name but he talked at length about his wife and five children. I don’t think he talked to me because I was me, though I did try to be a kind listener. He would have talked to anyone next to him, anyone who offered him an hear. He simply wanted connection and understanding. Frank, my Uber driver, was not so different. That guy drives people around all day long, probably telling his story to as many as will listen.

We are lonely people like this, wanting to tell our story, wanting to be known, understood, and loved. I want to believe that this longing that we experience day in and day out, year-round, begins to find fulfillment in Advent when the seed gets planted in our hearts that recognizes that a savior is coming, and will be here with us, living into our lives with understanding and love.

Katy Sundararajan

Katy Sundararajan is the Th.M. Program Administrator and International Student Advisor at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.

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