How to overcome loneliness this Christmas
If you want to have the merriest Christmas of all, if you want to experience Christmas the way it was meant to be experienced, you need to understand and embrace the essential message of the season:
Immanuel. God is with us.
The first chapter of the gospel of Matthew lays it out for us:
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name 'Immanuel', which is translated, “'God with us'” (Matthew 1:22-23).
Most of us have heard the contemporary song, “Mary, Did You Know?” I love the lines:
“Did you know that Your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?”
Did she understand that this was Immanuel?
I believe she did.
What a staggering thought that is for all of us.
“God with us” is the very essence of the Christian experience. All other religions lay out things that you must do to reach God, make it to Heaven, achieve Nirvana, or escape wrath. If you do it all perfectly, then maybe you will gain the approval of God or reach the outskirts of Heaven.
In contrast to all the other religions of the world, Christianity doesn’t say “do.” It has already been done. Our salvation was accomplished by God Himself, for us through God with us, who became a man and took our penalty on Himself.
Some people dread the month of December, wishing they could skip from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some empty nesters miss the hustle and bustle of Christmases past. Some have lost a spouse, and memories of Christmas only seem to make the pain and desolation harder to bear.
Is this a time of anxiety or separation for you? Are you lonely, and feel as though you have no one at all?
Loneliness is a painful sense of being unwanted, unloved, unneeded, uncared for, and maybe even unnecessary. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons people commit suicide is because deep down inside they are lonely.
That’s why the name Immanuel is so inexpressibly powerful.
God is with you
He didn’t just say that. He named Himself that.
This Christmas, God wants you to understand you are not alone.
The Bible tells us that “Even in his own land and among his own people, the Jews, he [Jesus] was not accepted. Only a few would welcome and receive him” (John 1:11-12, TLB). The Old Testament prophet, writing of Jesus’ life, said of Him: “We despised Him and rejected Him—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way when He went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care” (Isaiah 53:3, TLB).
His disciples couldn’t even stay awake to watch with Him during the greatest crisis of His life. And when a murderous mob descended on the Lord, they all took off to save their own skins, leaving Him to be condemned, abused and killed.
On the cross, with His life agonizingly slipping away inch by inch, and bearing the weight of all the sins of all time on His shoulders, Jesus even experienced a separation from God the Father, who turned away from Him as the sins of the world fell on Jesus. He called out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Jesus viscerally understands loneliness. He is with you in a special way if you are feeling lonely this Christmas.
Jesus promises to every man or woman, boy or girl who has ever put their faith in Him: “I will never leave you nor forsake you…. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT).
One of the most remarkable teachings in all of the Bible is that somehow, some way, Christ Himself enters the human heart and lives there.
Our Lord said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
I don’t fully understand how, but I know that no matter what, I am not alone in life, and I never will be. And neither are you. No matter what difficulty, crisis or heartbreak you might face, no matter what impossibility looms on the path ahead of you.
This Christmas, remember you are not alone. God is with you now and forever.
Greg Laurie is the Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship and the speaker at the Harvest Crusades. He is also the author of Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus: A Spiritual Biography of Rock And Roll.