It Doesn't Have to be a Hallmark Holiday: When Christmas-time Brings Loneliness, Pain, or Anxiety

Finding Home

Over 100 million people will travel “at least 50 miles from home” this Christmas season. American drivers will set a 20-year record before 2019 is over!

All our holiday traditions center on drawing near to each other. We bend our whole lives to be close to the ones we love. Our desire for home is so strong, we migrate vast distances and risk road rage in freezing weather!

Our holiday traditions are the Olympics of relationships. We train all year for this. We daydream about getting away, being near, reliving memories and traditions. All rooted in the idea of home.

Yet for many, Christmas time magnifies loneliness. Some have lost loved ones. Families may be divided or separated geographically, emotionally, or all the above.

Some may not have anyone or anywhere to call home.

Others may have more family and friends than they can manage. They have maxed out their social bandwidth with the holidays ushering more anxiety than peace.

Why is this time of the year so paradoxical? Why do the holidays amplify joy and stress? (For more on this, I explored holiday contentment in a previous article).

What I am about to share can never gloss over or ignore the wounds or loneliness you currently feel. Yet, there is good news to revive your joy around those you love. And for those who feel on an island, there's an anchor waiting for you.

The King without a Home

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

Christmas, the celebration of the Messiah's arrival, can help us reshape our ideal of home. Jesus chose to be born into the loneliness and dirtiness of the human condition (Philippians 2:6-8).

His parents could not find an ideal place when it came time for Jesus to be born. Instead, He was born and placed in a food trough for animals (Luke 2:6-7).

...a lack of home and permanence marked the life of Jesus.

After Jesus's birth, Herod sought the Messiah's life, and so Joseph had to flee with his family to Egypt.

Later in Jesus's life, he told His disciples that He had no real home...nowhere to “lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

It seems a lack of home and permanence marked the path of Jesus.

For those emotionally and/or physically distanced from family this year, scoot closer to your homeless King. The Prince of Peace is there when “home” may feel far away.

He Speaks for You

The Christmas story is mind-blowing for a variety of reasons, but one reason, in particular, will help your holiday distress: the Son of God chose to become skin-and-bone and to live among us (John 1:14).

God could have decided to observe our self-destruction from afar, yet in His justice and love, He chose instead to solve both...

  • Through justice, the Son paid the penalty of our sin through His death (Romans 3:21-26).
  • In love, the Son gave up His life on everyone's behalf...including yours (John 3:16).

The Bible also declares you have a faithful High Priest who knows your pain (Hebrews 2:14-18). He suffered. Was abandoned. Tortured. Yet, He lives victoriously to speak to the Father on your behalf.

For those who feel voiceless or alone this season, speak to the Wonderful Counselor.

The Holiday Overwhelm

Photo by Zera Li on Unsplash

How much is too much?

Christmas, though the season of Peace, ushers in a sense of hurriedness: Shopping. Gatherings. Lots of driving. More shopping. Meeting with friends. Hosting family. Cooking meals. Cleaning. Repeat.

For many, the holidays bring overwhelming anxiety of meeting demands and standards, especially when it comes to pleasing all our family and friends. Social media amplifies these feelings since we see everyone else traveling, connecting, and enjoying others.

We feel like we have to maintain this pace of the holidays, but as I mentioned earlier, our “social bandwidth” has limits. One friend of mine recently lamented how she felt lonely because there are only a few people she gets to spend quality time with at Christmas. And I can understand where she's coming from. If everyone else is having a Hallmark holiday, it can make you feel left out.

But Jesus seemed unphased by the hectic, maddening pace of social demands we normally place on ourselves. For those overwhelmed by the holidays, take heart in the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, chose only 12 (twelve!) apostles to follow Him closely. As well, Jesus often withdrew from large crowds to pray and to recharge with His Father (Mark 3:7, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12).

It seemed even Christ knew the limits of social bandwidth for humanity. It's important to note the intentionality of Jesus, how he sought these moments of respite and close connection with God first and then His apostles.

So for those overwhelmed by social standards, know that the Son of God changed the world forever with a small batch of friends. Forget the noise of social media and the unrealistic expectations which surround the holidays. Embrace the Father who has time in His hands and whose love is unaffected by social expectations.

Onward

So, my encouragement for you is to press into this season...loneliness and all...by walking through it with the Messiah as your anchor.

And look, I know this is all easier said than done. You will face strong emotions during the holidays (it seems unavoidable). But, you can walk through it with King of Kings.


PostScript...

As I finish this article, my father is sitting near me in the hospital, recovering and healing from a hard year. He's battled cancer and recently returned to the hospital due to an unforeseen complication. Through several miracles, he is stabilized and is very much himself right now (though he does have a journey ahead of him still). He will be at the hospital through Christmas, so we have to place our normal traditions on hold.

A Christmas Story plays in the background while we chat. With wires and tubes protruding out of him, my dad talks to me about ministry and serving God. At one point he says, “You know, we don't have to things for God. We get to do things for Him.” And as each nurse, technician, and physician's assistant checks in on him, my dad takes time to smile and to check in with them.

Miles away in another county, my mom takes care of their home and gathers clothes to stay closer to the hospital. She has poured herself into caring for my father. It has been an especially hard season for my parents, yet they embody the heart of Christ in the midst of trial.

This post is in honor of them.

This article was updated on October 24, 2020

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.