Too often the message we hear at church or in the media at this time of year is that Christmas is a time for families. For example this morning at church my pastor prayed a special prayer to bless families and those who came with their family, sadly no mention was made of those who came alone or with friends. This kind of treatment can make those of us who are single, divorced, widowed, without children or who are living far from family, that Christmas is not a time for us. It can make us feel as if Christmas is a time in which we get to just look in the window of other people’s homes and see happy families happily gathered around a tree and a table full of food. And we can feel that we are alone, in the cold, cast out, not welcomed, without a place in the world at Christmas.
As a result Christmas can feel not like the most wonderful time of the year but the most lonely time of the year. It is not surprising then that at this time we see more people jumping online to meet someone, or shutting themselves off, or going out and drinking too much and maybe regretting things in an effort to make the loneliness go away and to feel like we are not alone at Christmas.
But the truth is that Christmas is for everyone and anyone. Jesus wasn’t born into a happy nuclear family, cosy and warm and surrounded by grandparents and extended family. No he was born to a teenage mother and a young father in a dirty stable accompanied by a motley crew of dirty shepherds, animals and then a stream of random visitors. Not a family member in sight!! Christmas is about God coming to earth, it is about God with us, Emmanuel! God with all of us!! Not just the happy family, in fact not even a happy family.
Jesus came to save, to love, to be with each one of us. Especially those of us who find ourselves on our own this Christmas. Jesus called people who society rejected, who definitely did not come from happy families, He called the woman on her fifth husband, the corrupt tax collector, the single man who persecuted Christians, the adulterous woman.
Jesus also radically redefined family saying that as believers we are first and foremost family to each other, that no more is family a matter of biology but of people connected by belief in Him. Sadly the modern church seems to have forgotten or chooses often to ignore these teachings. By exalting and even idolising the biological family over the spiritual one it excludes those who may not have been blessed to have this. It also places a huge amount of pressure on families to be perfect and to keep up appearances. In doing so there is an implicit message that somehow the biological family can meet all of a person’s emotional and social needs. It also relegates friendships to second class status (see my earlier post on the importance of friendship) and de-emphasizes the importance of the church being a family for all.
Christmas in this context can then become a time of sadness and loneliness and disappointment and depression for those who are failing to embody and experience the perfect nuclear family. They can feel like there is no place for them. But nothing, nothing could be further from the truth!!
Christmas is a time for believers from all life situations to gather and celebrate that God is with us, that He came to earth to save us and to restore us and to give us new hope. To bind up the broken hearted, to set the captives free and bring good news to the poor!!Christmas is a time for Christians to look around and celebrate with not only their biological family but with the family of God! To demonstrate the love of God for all mankind and especially for those who are alone. To look around and see who needs love and warmth and care and then to give it. (For more on how to thrive at Christmas, check out my post from last year)
This year no matter whether you are alone or with your family ask the Lord to open your eyes to the people in your life who might need a place to spend Christmas. Pick up the phone make a call, gather with believers and non believers and demonstrate the radical inclusiveness of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, who came for all mankind. Celebrate that you are part of an eternal and beautiful family in which your Heavenly Father loves you and cares for you forever.
Remember you are never alone and the Lord has a wonderful plan and purpose for your life!! God bless you richly this Christmas and if you feel lonely or forgotten please write a comment so I can encourage you.