Ringing bells, department store Santas, wreaths, candles and carols evoke feelings of Christmas joy and nostalgia for a lot of us over the holidays. But for some, the sight of holiday lights and sounds of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” can be painful.
The widow, with every greeting card she opens, may feel the sadness of facing Christmas without her husband. The soldier on deployment thousands of miles from home may long for his familiar Christmas celebrations. The firefighters and nurses working holiday shifts may feel more stress than any other time of year.
But this season is for everyone, not just those who can celebrate with family and friends. The Christ of Christmas is not only a baby surrounded by awestruck shepherds and wondering wise men. He is the champion of the lonely.
He was born three days’ journey from “home” to a young mother who was probably more than a little scared amid strange surroundings. The birth announcement was not a hospital photo mailed first-class to neighbors and family. Instead, angels split the sky to appear to a pocket of shepherds on a hillside, men who were probably lonely and bored until they heard the news.
His presentation in the Jerusalem Temple was attended most notably by Simeon, an aging priest, and Anna, a long-widowed prophetess. Before too long, the holy family was warned not to return home but to journey far away to a foreign land where they lived as refugees until the political situation changed. To read the Christmas story sensitively is to see God engineering the events of Christ’s birth to include the lonely and making it clear that He knew their pain.
Jesus never failed to identify with the lonely. A Samaritan woman at a well, an outcast tax-collector, a woman with a repulsive illness—Jesus drew near to such people, sometimes singling them out for special attention or favor.
So as Christmas approaches, remember the lonely in your prayers. Cry out to God for those whose holidays are mournful reminders of loss or lack in their lives. Pray for those who (like the holy family) are far from home over the holidays. Who (like the shepherds) must work while others celebrate. Who (like Simeon and Anna) have outlived many friends and loved ones. Who are refugees, prisoners, patients or travelers during this special season. Call out on their behalf to the One who, the Bible says, “is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18 NIV).