Alone At Christmas
Christmas is a time to get together with family and friends and fun and food – at least that’s what the media is telling us in movies and TV commercials. And we all know how accurately they portray real life!
The truth is, our Christmas experiences might be very far removed from what the media asserts. For a multitude of reasons many of us, more than we would like to think, will be spending Christmas alone.
Actually, those of us who will be alone during the holidays – either alone physically, or emotionally – have more in common with the original characters in the Christmas story as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Consider:
- Zacharias was all alone in the temple, performing his duties as a priest. An angel came to him and told him that his wife, who was unable to have children, would have a son. The Bible said Zacharias was “troubled” and asked the angel, “How shall I know this for certain?” He was obviously very afraid, and was alone in that fear. Because he demanded proof, he was struck dumb, and perhaps deaf, too. Imagine how alone he felt there, alone and confused, wanting to believe, but afraid to hope.
- Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife, was most likely all too familiar with feeling alone, for in those days being barren was considered a curse. For years she had been living with unfulfilled longings. When the angel’s prophecy was fulfilled and she became pregnant, the Bible said she “kept herself in seclusion.” Perhaps she also was afraid that after waiting and hoping and praying for so long, her pregnancy was too good to be true. That can be a lonely place, trying so hard not to hope, not to think of the worst. She was probably obsessed with fear that something would go wrong. How lonely it can be to live in fear!
- Mary, who scholars say was probably just entering her teens, was also visited by an angel. Like Zacharias, she was alone when the angel came. He told her that she, too would have a child, and not just any child, but the Son of the Most High! How would you have handled that when you were 13? Imagine her fear, her feelings of being so alone, so “different.” Later, when she had given birth to Jesus, and had been visited by the shepherds (a very lonely job, by the way) the Bible said, “But May treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” That sounds like she was very alone in her thoughts, undoubtedly being overwhelmed by it all.
- Joseph was engaged to Mary and as such was assuming she was a faithful virgin. How he must have felt when he found out she was pregnant “by the Holy Spirit!” What was he supposed to do with that??? After pondering the situation, he decided he would secretly break off the engagement. As cruel as that sounds, in those days he had the right to have her stoned…so he actually was being kind. But how alone he must have felt. He probably loved Mary – he was planning to spend the rest of his life with her. The prospect of breaking up must have been heartbreaking. How alone he must have felt in his pain. And then he, too, had an angelic visitation, confirming that this baby was from God, and that Joseph was chosen to have a part in His plan, just as Mary had been chosen. Did he dare share that with anyone? Who would have believed him?
- Mary and Joseph had finally arrived at Bethlehem, where they had to register for the census. When they got there, as the familiar verse said, “…there was no room for them in the inn.” She gave birth to Jesus all alone, except for Joseph. How alone each of them must have felt!
- John, the miracle child of Zacharias and Elizabeth, became a man years later. According to the plan God had for him, he fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah that described him as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” That certainly is a vivid description of aloneness – the voice of ONE.
So we can see the original Christmas story is very different from the one the secular media portrays today. How much more meaningful, then in the midst of so many being alone, that the angel proclaims to Joseph – “and they shall call His name Immanuel, which…means ‘God with us.” Right smack dab in the middle of all these people feeling so alone comes God Himself, announcing that He is WITH us. Hallelujah, they are not alone!
And as believers in Jesus, neither are we. Yes, we will still have times when we feel lonely, sometimes still desperately, painfully lonely. But the truth is stronger and greater and more powerful and more constant than our feelings. The truth is what we can turn to when we are feeling lonely – the truth that He is Immanuel, God with us. May that truth console all who are feeling alone during this Christmas season.