Monday, December 27, 2010

Cure for Holiday Loneliness

As I waited in a cashier's line just before Christmas, I overheard a poignant revelation of loneliness.
The cashier asked a customer, "Are you ready for Christmas?"

"I don't celebrate Christmas," was the reply.  "My husband died; my mother died, and my daughter died, so I don't celebrate."

I pitied the cashier who was trying to be cheerful, but we both pitied the lonely woman.

Something about the holidays amplifies loneliness.
from: Midlife Country
What about you? Does the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day seem an eternity, because  someone is missing in your life? Do you feel isolated in a new neighborhood?  Are you lonely, because you can't communicate with someone important in your life?  Whatever the cause, unwelcome solitude leaves us sad and empty.  Furthermore, loneliness affects both genders, all age groups, and knows no geographic boundaries.

However, the Christmas story holds hope for those who are alone.  Tucked at the end of the nativity narrative are three verses in Luke chapter two about a widow who learned to live by herself but with joy.  In less than a hundred words, Luke, the physician, historian, and author, elevates this widow as a role-model for any lonely soul.
Aren't de Gelder (1645-1727)
This long-standing friendship between the Almighty and the prophetess gives us an alternative to loneliness. Certainly, Anna was alone. Widows customarily were sheltered by relatives, but she lived in the temple.

As a widow for so long, Anna could have pitied herself in the present and lived in the past. Instead, she turned her loneliness into happy solitude serving the Lord. How did she serve?  Luke calls Anna a prophetess, someone who spoke God's Word back to the people. I am sure because Scripture tells us that she served the Lord day night, that she also spent a lot of time repeating His promises back to Him!  Obviously, Anna had taken to heart the truth of Psalm one:  "Happy is the man (or woman) who meditates day and night on the Law of the Lord."

What was she praying for?  She was praying for deliverance for her people; she was asking the Lord to send his promised Messiah.

After six decades of praying, she was in the right place at exactly the right time to encounter Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child when they came for Mary's ritual purification forty days after giving birth.  In answer to her prayers, Anna was on hand to witness the presentation of Mary's son at the temple.
The prophetess must have been overjoyed when old Simeon--also righteous and devout--took the baby in his arms and prayed, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation...a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Hearing these words, the faithful widow recognized the six-week-old baby as "the Consolation of Israel, the Messiah."

However, the account does not end there.  Immediately, Luke tells us, Anna told those who were looking for redemption of Jerusalem about the child.  The prophetess must have been part of a group of faithful who read the Scrolls and watched for Messiah's coming.

Rembrandt's Anna the Prophetess
Undoubtedly, these soul-mates provided this widow, without family, a community.  In spite of isolating life-circumstances, Anna was doubly comforted by God and fellow believers.

What gems of help are in this story for us.  We do not have to entertain ourselves with TV, music, and movies to avoid emptiness and isolation.  Nor do not have to fill our waking hours with frenetic activity to avoid loneliness.  The prophetess chose a soul-satisfying alternative--prayer. We can do the same.

Christ, our Consoler and Deliverer, left us this invitation, "I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me" (Revelation 3:21).


  1. Amen! Well said and beautiful. There are many who are suffering or sad and Christmas does elevate those feelings in many. I pray for them...for all who feel lonely...that they would hear God calling to them...that they would no longer be alone. Blessings, precious one!

  2. Very well written. It is so sad to think of those who feel they have no reason to celebrate.

    I hope your Christmas was a blessed one.