Feeling Alone at Christmas
Christmas—that enchanted time of year brimming with excitement. For many, it’s an occasion to travel back home, to gather and reconnect with our closest family and friends. It’s also a season for millions to realign with a cornerstone belief of the Christian faith—Immanuel—God with us.
Still, the Christmas season can also be a time when people, even Christians, feel most alone. If you’re one of them, you’re in good company.
Have you ever wondered if Mary felt alone, shouldering the weight of carrying God’s child? Yes, Joseph, stood by her side. He’d already soared high above the heights of duty to show her that he wasn’t about to abandon her in the shame of a baby born out of wedlock. And she most certainly held in her heart the angel Gabriel’s words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (LUKE 1:28 NKJV). Nonetheless, humanly speaking, an unexplained pregnancy was Mary’s responsibility to bear.
Mary may have felt alone for other reasons too. It’s common for first-time mothers to feel extremely close to their newborn, and yet feel strangely distant from everyone else—a challenge that catches many new mothers off guard.
Or what about the unwanted shepherds sitting alone in the middle of nowhere, out in the in the cold, tending sheep in the dark of night? Might they have felt the raw pangs of loneliness, wondering what the future held for them? Had family and culture already destined them to countless solitary nights protecting livestock from predators? What was to come of other hopes and dreams?
Some may think that the lonely choose to be alone during the Christmas season. Western culture’s unspoken expectation is that we attend all of the extra activities and social celebrations that fill up the typical holiday calendar. Participate. If we don’t, then we’re choosing to be alone.
It’s not that simple. Loneliness is no more a choice for us today than it was for those who felt its twinges that original Christmas night.
What can people who suffer with a bout of lonely feelings during the holiday season do? Here are few thoughts that could be helpful.
First, reach out to a safe family member or friend. This doesn’t mean you have to partake in all of the holiday cheer. Just confide your loneliness to at least one trustworthy person. Maybe ask them to hang out with you, to simply be with you. Nothing complicated at first. Float the idea of getting together for coffee or a meal. Perhaps watch a movie or go on a walk. Loneliness only deepens when we further isolate ourselves.
Second, take slow, concrete steps toward cultivating deeper conversations and connections. Open up and talk. Not just small talk. Start to discuss what really matters. Talk about your hopes and dreams that count the most. The troubling things that keep you awake at night. Your deepest hurts and fears.
And don’t settle for sharing on social media where it’s easier to pretend. Share face-to-face, in person, if at all possible.
We long to be known by other people, especially when we’re going through difficulties. Seen. Heard. Understood. We want to know that at least one other human being who matters to us knows and genuinely cares about what we are going through. We long for that person who listens and expresses empathy and compassion in words, and then backs it up with actions.
We can’t be known and cared for if we don’t go beyond the typical junk-food conversations that are easily forgotten.
Third, take some time to consider that Jesus knows what it’s like to be alone too. He took on the appearance of a fatherless child, conceived out of wedlock, born in shame. Yes, he had a father, but on earth it didn’t look like it. That put him on the fringes of society, a lonely path, but one He was willing to travel to be with us—to become one of us. His was a messy, less than ideal route, for sure. But isn’t that true of the paths we all find ourselves traveling?
The messy path Jesus took is also one filled with hope and promise. For the newborn baby without an earthly father was the beginning of heaven coming to earth. As the angels appeared out of the darkness to the shepherds and announced with joyful anticipation, this little baby born out of human wedlock, whose birth the world still pauses to celebrate all these years later, was the promised Messiah—the Son of God who came to save and, one day, fully transform the world.
On that day, loneliness will no longer plague this world—when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (REVELATION 11:15).