A blessed Christmas to all of you! By no stretch of the imagination, this year has been an easy one. Still, we are gathered here today in celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for God has been gracious to us. There are many religious holidays around the world. Still, Christmas is unique because it’s the only celebration in the entire year that brings people together, regardless of their gender, beliefs, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, language, and, social status.
Christmas is also unique because it can be the loneliest time of the year as well. In the song “Loneliest Time of the Year” Mabel Alabama captured that for some people the holidays can heighten feelings like loneliness, loss, and depression. Some of you may be stung with loneliness this Christmas. Maybe you have just gone through a divorce, become unemployed, or even lost a loved one to the COVID 19 Pandemic. Perhaps you are spending the golden years of your life in a shelter for elderly citizens, and your children living halfway around the world are unable to visit you because of travel restrictions.
A lonely Christmas is a sad season but Paul the Apostle shows we have a choice. Paul was a man who wrote thirteen out of the twenty-seven books in the Bible. Five out of thirteen he wrote from the prison. In 2 Timothy 4:9-13 another book he wrote from a Roman jail while awaiting execution, we find four antidotes for the sting of loneliness during Christmas. Let us see what those antidotes are. Remember by this time all of Paul’s friends except Luke had deserted him.
1. When Christmas is Lonely: Find Healthy Company
Paul didn’t like to be alone; it wasn’t the way God wired him. Paul loved to be around his friends. He wanted company so much in 2 Timothy 4:9-10 that he instructed Timothy to come as soon as possible because everybody else had left him. He had even sent Tychicus to be in charge of the church in Ephesus so that Timothy is free to come. Even in the face of death, Paul valued the company of others.
A healthy company is the first antidote for loneliness. Paul was a people person. Some of us, on the other hand, are born introverts. We are very uncomfortable around crowds. We function best when we work alone. However, nobody can function alone all the time. King Solomon wrote, that in life, there are times we cannot do without the company of another human being (Ecclesiastes 4:11). Although work, entertainment, oversleeping, and pets can substitute human company any other time of the year it cannot during Christmas.
There are some practical things you can do to deal with loneliness this Christmas. Consider inviting someone for a fellowship breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My place is relatively small to entertain guests, so I ask them to join me at a nearby restaurant. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just pleasant. You can even invite another lonely friend this Christmas for a movie night and a sleepover. Remember “healthy” is the keyword. If you associate with someone that complains, grumbles, criticizes, and gossips, you will end up feeling worse.
2. When Christmas is Lonely: Reflect and Learn
In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul instructs Timothy to bring Mark with him. Hopefully, Mark will be of assistance to him. This person is none other than John Mark Paul refused to take with him on the second missionary journey. Did Paul reflect on his dispute with Barnabas over John Mark while awaiting execution? I do not know. But I do know his perception of Mark had changed.
Reflection is the second antidote for loneliness. Remember, it’s one thing to dwell in the past but entirely another thing to reflect on the past. Someone said, “It’s one thing to look in the rear-view mirror but wholly something else to stare at.” To stay in the past is to live in regret your mistakes. Reflecting is to learn from the past and move on to a brighter future. Moses stressed the importance of reflection in the book of Psalm, chapter 90, verse 12. “So, teach us to consider our mortality, so that we might live wisely.” (NET)
The absence of my beloved father who went home to be with the Lord barely three months ago makes this year’s Christmas particularly lonesome for my mother and me. However, reflecting on my father’s not so timely death has helped me appreciate my family like never before. This lonely Christmas, take time to reflect on your past and see what new lessons you can learn.
3. When Christmas is Lonely: Look after Yourself
Looking after yourself is the third antidote for loneliness. In 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul instructed Timothy to bring his coat. Now, what use is a coat to a man awaiting his execution in solitary confinement? It’s possible Paul was being held in an underground dungeon. Essentially dungeons were not suitable for the human habitat. They were occupied by rats, and cockroaches and smelled poisonous fungi. They were damp and cold because they had never seen the sunlight. Paul was staring death in the face but had the assurance he will be with Jesus Christ, his savior after his death. Until then, he had work to do, and for that, he had to protect himself from the cold. Hence the coat.
This Christmas even if it’s lonely do your best to take care of yourself because it is in the seasons of loneliness that you need to be most healthy. You cannot afford to get sick when there’s nobody to attend to you around the clock. Remember, we can survive any situation if we are physically and mentally fit.
It is true of human nature that when we are lonely and depressed, we take poor care of ourselves—physically or any other way. We don’t exercise. We don’t rest adequately. We skip meals, or we eat junk. Paul did the best he could to take care of himself. Perhaps you need to hear this today if you’re taking care of yourself poorly this Christmas because you’re lonely.
4. When Christmas is Lonely: Make Yourself Useful
Last but not least, making yourself useful unto God and others is the fourth antidote for loneliness. Even Jesus, in the loneliest moment of his life, was more concerned about others, (Luke 23:33-34; John 19:26-27). Paul instructed Timothy to bring his scrolls and especially the parchments in addition to his coat. Scrolls were copies of the Bible written on processed Papyrus while parchments were fresh writing material made out of Goatskin. Paul wrote to his fellow Christians, frequently encouraging them in their faith. Paul wrote four other letters from prison. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. As a tentmaker, he could have overworked making more tents while he was in jail or he could have been idle. Instead, he made himself useful unto others, and some 2,000 years later, we are still benefiting from his loneliness.
We make two major mistakes when we are lonely. We overwork to overcome the pain of loneliness. Overworking is being busy without being productive. The second mistake we make is we don’t do anything at all, and our minds become the devil’s workshop. The solution is to find the right balance between working and idling. We bring balance into the equation by being useful to others.
This Christmas, I want to urge you to let your life be a channel of blessing unto others. You might not see the fruit of your labor right now. Sometimes you will not even be around when it finally bears fruit. Still, you will leave this world knowing that you contributed to making someone’s life better.
You can use the principles I mentioned above not just in the Christmas season but throughout the year. I am not saying everything will work out like a charm if you follow them. I still miss my father. After all, only three months have passed since he left this world. I am lonely this Christmas, but loneliness cannot sting me anymore. Remember, you can’t choose what happens to you in life. Loneliness can visit you whether you like it or not. Sooner or later. But you can choose how you respond to loneliness this Christmas. I urge you to respond wisely.
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