This is the final part in my mini series “We Need A Little Christmas,” focusing on the hope the coming of Jesus has to offer specifically for 2020. I’d always planned to cover this topic today, but developments over the last couple of days have made it more appropriate than ever.
I think one of the cruelest things about the pandemic has been the need to so drastically reduce our contact with others. While it has been necessary, there is nothing social about distancing, and I know it has been particularly hard for people who have been unable to see their loved ones in hospitals or care homes, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Personally, as someone who lives alone, I have spent way more time on my own this year than I would ever have chosen. One of the most vivid memories I have of the early days of the pandemic is the feeling of being completely alone. I was always in regular contact with friends and family through Zoom, phone calls and social media, so I was never isolated, but physically I was basically alone for over two months. I remember the fear of becoming ill and being by myself, and the realisation that it was actually illegal for me to meet with another human being.
When the lockdown was initially announced, we expected that it might last two months. That seemed like an eternity, and I wondered how I’d cope. All I can say is, God is good. Nine months later, with only short periods of respite from the severity of the restrictions, I’m still standing, still persevering, still hoping. As I reflected at the time, my experience of knowing God’s presence in times when I had been alone in the past helped to prepare me to deal with the lockdown. I knew he had helped me before, and this gave me faith that he would help me again.
For the last couple of months, Christmas has been the light on the horizon for so many. We endured weeks of tighter restrictions for the promise of a few days’ respite. All we wanted was the chance to meet with loved ones again. This beautiful song written by two Scottish teachers sums it up perfectly.
But 2020 hadn’t finished with us, and it dealt another vicious blow this week. The discovery of a new strain of the virus, potentially up to 70% more infectious than the original, has led to tightened restrictions across the UK, and, for many, Christmas plans have had to be cancelled.
It saddens me to think of the loneliness and isolation so many will experience this Christmas. I’m fortunate that I will get to see my family on Christmas Day. It’s one day only, instead of the five we were promised, but it’s something. Many in the south of England are banned from mixing with other households at all and no-one is allowed to travel unless they can make it there and back in one day. Christmas is a hard time for many people anyway, but this Christmas is going to be tough for so many more.
But all of it points us to the fact that we need a little Christmas more than ever this year. Actually, we need a lot of Christmas! I’m not talking about the celebrations or family gatherings, but about the coming of Jesus.
One of my favourite descriptions of Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us.
If you stop to think about that it’s mind-blowing. God himself, the creator of the universe, entered into the world he created, as a tiny baby. He didn’t distance himself from us, but he drew close in the most wonderful way.
It gives us hope because it shows how much he cares, but also because Jesus experienced all that it is to be human – the joy and sorrow, the laughter and tears. He experienced loneliness, pain and suffering, which means he understands.
And the reason he came was to deal with the brokenness of the world, and the sin which caused such a deep separation between us and God. In his death and resurrection, he made a way for us to be with God forever – to know his Holy Spirit living in us and working in us now, as well as having the promise of eternal life where tears, sadness and suffering will be no more.
Even if you are physically alone this Christmas, you don’t have to be truly alone because Jesus came to be with us. He sees your situation, he knows your pain, and he longs to draw close to you to bring you hope and light.
So talk to him – tell him how you feel, be honest, ask for help. Seek the hope that is only found in him. He may not change your circumstances, but he is there, and he promises never to leave you nor forsake you.
This will be my final post before Christmas, so I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone who is reading a happy Christmas. Whether you’re celebrating with family or you’re on your own, I pray that you find peace, joy and hope in Jesus, and that you know God with you.
Sometimes, despite knowing God is with us, we just need another human being. Please do reach out and ask for help if you’re struggling this Christmas. You could speak to a trusted friend or family member. Alternatively, in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 223 or, in the US, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. Both these services provide free, confidential help 24/7. (These are the main two countries my blog readers are from. I can’t list them for every country, but I know there are similar services available in many other places.)