I just love the mountains in Juneau. I remember the first time I came to Juneau, they looked so lovely they took my breath away. But those first days in Juneau were also kind of lonely for me. I didn't really know many people in town and I missed my loved ones back home. During one of our phone calls, someone in my family advised, "You'll just have to make friends with the mountains." I took their advice.
Now, whenever I am in Juneau, I say "good morning" to the mountains at the start of each day. I gaze at them as I drink my morning coffee and it feels great to be in their company. Yet, there is one little problem with my friendship with the mountains. When the clouds roll in, you can't always see the mountains. I look in their direction and see only a white fog.
We are in the midst of the winter holidays. There is Christmas music playing in the stores and sometimes special parties at work. Decorations spring up everywhere. The ads on the television and in magazines all show families together, enjoying the season in the good company of each other and gazing into each other's smiling faces. Some ads will even tell you that the holidays are a time for families to gather around the table or the tree or the candles. Yet I know that not everyone is near their loved ones right now.
Some of you have family and friends in Juneau but many of us came here from other places and our family is still there. Maybe you had family in Juneau but they have moved away. Perhaps your loved ones are scattered all over the world. This can be a lonely time of year to be separated from those we care about. If we miss them during other times, the longing can be even more intense at this season.
When it's dark or foggy I can't see my friends, the mountains. But they are still there. They are just as majestic as ever, I just can't see them. I simply have to know that they are there. I am willing to say that the feelings your loved ones have for you are also still there, even when you are not with them to see it in their eyes. Family and friends still love you even when you are not with them. You are still connected across the miles. Love is like the mountains. It doesn't stop being there just because you can't see it with your eyes. If you pay attention, you can know it is there in other ways.
For those of us who believe in a higher power, it can be the same way. Whether you think of a Father Creator or an unnamed great force of the universe, you can know it is there even when it is not easy to see evidence. People have said this all over the world and for centuries. The Taoists say, "Tao never acts, yet nothing is left undone" (Tao Te Ching 37). The Christians say, "God is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27). The Muslims say "My mercy embraces all things" (Quran 7.156).
The love we share with family and friends does not go away just because we are not able to celebrate the holidays with them. Those bonds are strong and can reach any distance. The love of those we miss is still there, even when you can't see them. It is like the mountains, and like whatever made them.
Rev. Sarah Schurr is a minister at the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.