Lonely this Christmas?

Last Sunday at King's I spoke about loneliness and Christmas. You can listen to it here.

These are the edited highlights...

Loneliness is not the same as being alone, it’s the emotional pain caused by a lack of connection with others. It’s experienced all the time but perhaps more so at Christmas because of the communal nature of the celebrations.

The Bible has many lonely people in it:

  • Joseph and Ruth were young people who found themselves isolated and vulnerable in foreign cultures. (Genesis 39:1, Ruth 1:22)
  • The prophet Jeremiah was single all his long life – in a culture which didn’t have a word for bachelor. (Jeremiah 16:2,8)
  • Moses grew so isolated leading the people of Israel that he asked God to kill him. (Numbers 11:14-15)
  • Then there are the childless, like Abraham and Sarah, or Hannah, who suffer alone surrounded by growing families. (Genesis 15:2)
  • Leah and Hosea both endure loveless marriages. (Genesis 29:30-32, Hosea 3:1)
  • Esther risks her life by going alone into the King of Persia’s courtroom to speak with him. (Esther 4:16)
  • Paul was imprisoned and abandoned. (2 Timothy 1:15)
  • Anna endured a long widowhood. (Luke 2:36-37)
  • John was exiled (Revelation 1:9)
  • Job suffered greatly and only had the company of unhelpfully moralising friends. (Job 16:2,7)
This isn’t how it’s meant to be: Genesis 2:18 tells us that it is “not good” for us to be alone, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 describes the struggle of the one. Life is like this because of sin, which separates us from God and from each other.

There are moments of profound loneliness in the Christmas story: Mary has to believe by herself and cope with all the scandal, the local king wants to kill the baby so they flee to Egypt as refugees. As Jesus grew up He realised that He was different to everyone else, which everyone else started to notice when his public ministry began (Luke 9:57-58). Yet we can’t say that Jesus was truly lonely (Mark 1:35-36, John 16:32). Because of this, He is able to bring grace, God’s overflowing goodness, to those who are lonely: lepers, tax collectors, sinners… and he makes them into a new community.

He also deals with our estrangement from God, from where all the other fractures come, by being totally abandoned on our behalf (Matthew 27:46, Isaiah 53:3-6) so that we can be reconciled to God. Jesus and the Father now send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to be with those who put their trust in Him (John 14:16, 16:7, Matthew 28:20), and churches are formed. So we can start to sing the songs of hope we find in the Bible (Psalm 27:10, 68:5-6, 147:3).

If you’re not a Christian, consider these words from Hubert von Zuller: “loneliness is really a homesickness for God.” Or as Augustine put it, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” God is giving you the opportunity to come to Him, and know Him, however many times you may have pushed Him away.

Christians facing loneliness this Christmas can find solitude instead, cultivating the experience of God’s presence. Reflect on His goodness to you, fill your mind with His word, and you’ll discover more of Him in you and with you. You can talk honestly with Him and hear His voice speaking clearly in the Bible.

All of us can bring hope to others who are lonely, God uses us in this way and commands us to do it (Galatians 6:2, Romans 13:8, John 15:12). Take the initiative in this: start conversations, write cards and make calls to neighbours and family members, get involved in church projects.