When You Are All Alone At Christmas
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The month of December and depression seem to go together! Ask any counselor, any pastor, anyone who has staffed a suicide hot line, and they will tell you that the number of people fighting depression accelerates during the month of December. “It’s the weather,” some say. “No, it’s too much alcohol at the Christmas party,” another chirps in. But I suspect that it is something deeper than the weather or the amount of alcohol which is consumed–both of which undoubtedly contribute to the problem.
The real problem is a sense of disconnection and loss which comes from the fact that you won’t be home for Christmas, that there may be no home to go to for Christmas, and your home, if you have one, has become an empty house because your family has disintegrated. Who wants to trim a tree or decorate a house when there are no kids running around, and nobody to buy gifts for, and no one to celebrate with. Who wants to listen to an old recording of Bing Crosby singing, “I’ll be home for Christmas” when you are alone?
OK, what do we do? Write off Christmas? Purge it from our memories? Play Scrooge and cry, “Bah, humbug!” or something a great deal more graphic? Part of the answer lies in rethinking what Christmas is about. Is it merely a family connection with good food, and pleasantries, exchanging gifts and making merry, or is it a God-connection which means that His Son came to earth to touch you at the point of your loneliness, your estrangement from both Him and others, and your pain.
Never forget that Jesus wasn’t home for Christmas for thirty-three years, long years when He was misunderstood, even abused, and longing for the home He had left in heaven. Part of the answer to the December depression that robs so many of joy or meaning is to refocus on the meaning of Christmas.
A second step is getting reconnected with people, even if you have to force yourself to take this step. Whatever you do, don’t just sit at home and feel sorry for yourself. Someone else is as lonely as you are. Find that person. Call a hospital and ask if they don’t need volunteers this Christmas. Go read a story to a kid in the children’s ward. Call a rescue mission and volunteer to serve meals to the homeless. Prepare a basket of food and take to someone who is unemployed. Dig a little deeper and buy a kids’ bicycle and see the joy in his eyes as you give it to someone. Take the week before Christmas and New Year’s and do a short stint as a missions volunteer in another country.
One of the major solutions to depression is reconnecting when the lines have gone dead, and we sit at home alone and down–very much down.
When the communists took over in China, two missionaries were arrested and put in prison–Rudolf Bosshardt and Arnolis Hayman. Summer turned to fall, and fall to winter. Christmas morning dawned as they shivered in a cold, unheated prison in Beijing.
Yes, they were lonely, cold, and depressed. They had hoped to be out of prison and home with their families, but here they were in prison, miserable and alone. One of them reached down and took the straw on the floor and formed the word, Immanuel, a word which means, “God with us!” They looked at it, and the reality slowly sank in.
According to their testimony, the very presence of Jesus seemed to fill that prison cell and warmed their hearts. It is the Immanuel or the God-connection which drives away your December depression. It’s the answer to your loneliness and pain and separation.