The nearness of Christ in the ache of emptiness.
by Bob Hostetler
For many people, holidays are a time of joy and nostalgia. But for others, holiday sights and sounds open painful wounds.
The widow, with every greeting card she opens, is pierced anew with the pain of facing her first holiday season without her husband of thirty-nine years.
Every clump of lighthearted shoppers that passes him in the mall only underscores the elderly man’s loneliness.
The young service woman, thousands of miles from family and home, dreads the coming of each holiday, when she will feel most keenly her separation from loved ones.
But holidays can be a powerful testimony to all the lonely people, as well as to those who have family and friends nearby. Jesus Christ came not only as a baby surrounded by awestruck shepherds and wondering wise men but also as the champion of the lonely.
Love for the lonely
Jesus 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; 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.
Before too long, the holy family was warned to not return to the home they had left just before Jesus’ birth. Instead, they journeyed farther from family to a foreign land where they lived as refugees until the political situation changed in their homeland.
As one reads the extraordinary story of Jesus being brought into the world, it seems that God went out of His way to engineer the events of Christ’s birth to include the lonely and make it clear that He knows their pain.
As an adult, Jesus apparently never lost the ability 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.
Nearness of Christ
It is no different today. Even when the holidays become a bitter reminder of loss or loneliness, God — through his Son, Jesus — draws especially near to lonely people.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,” the Bible says, “and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV). “Draw near to God,” it advises, “and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV).
This holiday season, try giving your loneliness and hurt to God. When no one else is near to hear you and help, He is. Pray a simple prayer and seek Him, for “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”
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