Finding Hope for the Holidays

Halloween this week means that the holiday season has officially begun. It could also be called the “Single Awareness Season”. One after another Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and then Valentine’s Day will come, each with the potential to remind the single person just how single they are. It can be depressing and hard. I found it to be so at least and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

How the Holidays Can Bring You Down

Thanksgiving isn’t really a romantic holiday, but anytime you get together with family, you’re bound to be asked about your relationship status. If you have nothing to report year after year, it gets old and depressing, even if you don’t want to be in a relationship. It’s even more depressing to bring bad relationship tidings to the party.

Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, but it’s often turned into a romantic holiday. All the sappy Christmas movies (even Elf has a love story element for crying out loud), the romantic Christmas songs, and the advertisements about getting a gift for that special someone can really bring you down if you’re single. Luckily, you at least have some sad, broken hearted Christmas songs to remind you that you’re not alone in being alone (“Last Christmas” and “Hard Candy Christmas” being my two personal favorites). I’m not sure if that’s much comfort though. I never found much there.

For New Years you’re supposed to have someone to kiss at midnight to kick the year off right. In February we celebrate the death of a priest by overpaying for fancy dinners and roses (I still hate Valentine’s Day even now that I’m married. It also happens to be my husband’s birthday, so I just choose to celebrate that instead. Feel free to join me in that.). If you don’t have a kissing partner or a date for that dinner, you can feel like the world’s biggest looser.

If you’re single heading into the holidays and dreading it (even just a little), I want to let you know I feel for you. I remember that feeling. It wasn’t pleasant. In a world that places so much value on love and relationships (especially around the holidays), I know you can feel like a second class citizen if you’re unmarried and/or not in a relationship. I can say I’m sorry about the situation all I want, but I know that there’s nothing that I can do to fix it. However, I am going to spend the month of November focusing on how Jesus is uniquely positioned to bring comfort to those who find themselves single either by choice or by circumstance this holiday season.

What’s Jesus Got to Do with It?

You might be asking yourself (I know I would be), “What the heck does Jesus have to do with any of this?” That’s a valid question, made more so by the way that Jesus is talked about in church most of the time. So often we only focus on two things about Jesus: his death and his teachings (well, and also his birth at Christmas). While both of those things are extremely important, if that’s all we focus on, we’re missing out.

Christ also lived for us. He was willing to “move into the neighborhood”[1] and experience life as we do. Jesus gave up his divine life in God, a life in which he was in perfect relationship with his Father and with the Holy Spirit, to come to earth and live life as a single man. This life included never having a spouse, never having sex, being lonely, having friends who didn’t understand him, being misunderstood by the people around him, being rejected by his friends and neighbors, and even being betrayed by one of his closest friends.

Jesus (And Therefore God) Has Experienced It All

This is important for us to understand. Jesus didn’t just drop from the heavens as God in the flesh and “put up” with everything that happened from his birth until his death. He didn’t fast forward through the boring parts. He wasn’t just waiting around for the moment when he redeemed humanity on the cross. Instead, he fully entered into the human experience and overcame all that is not right with it through every experience he had. Jesus overcomes the brokenness in the world one experience at a time. He had to live through the breadth of the human life to fully redeem it.

Not only that, through Jesus, God himself experiences all the evil, all the sadness, all the loss, all the loneliness inherent in the human life. By doing so, he does something about the brokenness that has entered his perfect creation. Not only does he prepare the way for our eventual rightness with him in heaven, he also becomes a God who understands. As Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, Jesus is not someone who is “unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but…one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Because of this we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

It Might Not Be Fixed, but We’re Not Alone

It’s not that Christ’s life and death have “fixed” everything in the here and now. We know from experience that this is not the case. Until Christ’s return, we are still stuck in a broken world. However, we are not here alone. We have a God who, through his Son, has suffered as we have. In the midst of the continued brokenness in the world, “it [is] crystal clear that it is not by his omnipotence [power over everything] that Christ helps us, but by his weakness and suffering.”[2]

We do not serve an unmoved God who sits on high and has no understanding of our lowly lives here on earth. God is transcendent, which is a fancy word that simply means he is wholly other and wholly above us. He is different and better being than we are. However, he has voluntarily chosen to enter into our world. He makes himself immanent (another fancy word which simply means he comes close to us) and jumps into our mess by entering into our history and our lives by becoming human himself. By sending his Son into our neighborhood, God himself experiences once and for all our pains, our longings, and our imperfections. For example, He knows what it’s like to be the awkward third wheel because I’m sure at some point Jesus was in that position on earth. He does this not to satisfy some sick curiosity or for his own benefit, but so that we know that he has entered into our sufferings personally. He can be there for those who feel alone, for those who are heartbroken, and he can truthfully say, “I’ve been there too and I’m here with you now.”

So if you find yourself single this holiday season, take heart! God, through Jesus, knows exactly what you’re feeling. He may not break into your life and miraculously save you from loneliness (after all, he didn’t even save his own son from the cross), but he is truly present with you. When you feel depressed by watching yet another Lifetime movie about a girl finding her perfect Prince Charming on Christmas Eve while you can’t even get asked out by any guy, Prince or otherwise, he has felt that same sense of longing for relationship, that same loneliness. As we know in human relationships, sometimes the most powerful thing when you’re suffering is not for someone to take the suffering away, but for someone to be present with you in the midst of it.

For the whole month of November, this will be the theme. Looking at Jesus’ life here on earth, we can learn some more things about singleness that will (hopefully, no pun intended) bring you hope in the midst of what can be a difficult time. Tune in next week to hear more!

[1] John 1:14, from The Message Bible

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fontana Books, 1964), 122


Photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash

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