According to Christians, a loving God with a plan for salvation entered the world through the birth of a child, that we were created by a God who desires relationships with us and with one another, that a relationship with Jesus guarantees our salvation from the eternal consequences of sin and death. Surely that should be a great source of joy, peace and love for all at Christmas?
But although the world now contains over seven billion people it’s actually quite easy to become—or at least to feel—isolated. Many of us live in a fast-paced, highly mobile world. It’s not uncommon nowadays to be geographically separated from family and friends. Sure, you may be around people at work every day, but those relationships often lack intimacy—a close, deep, and meaningful connectedness. Sometimes, however, people may be close geographically but emotionally distant because of unresolved conflict. No matter the cause, loneliness can be a powerful and destructive feeling.
Loneliness during a time when togetherness is emphasized can easily lead to depression. Feeling isolated from others can bear down on us and, unfortunately, pave the path for feelings of despair and sadness.
On the other hand, the pressure to be together physically during the holidays can have the same effect. You know this is happening when you feel that sense of dread about being together. This dread often gives way to guilt and depression over our own lack of excitement about being with certain friends or family members.
Holidays such as Christmas can also trigger feelings of grief associated with relationship loss, such as death or diminished capacity due to illness. Traditions just don’t feel the same. We may feel guilty, like we are dishonouring the missing family member or friend by celebrating Christmas without them. For others it’s the post-holiday adjustment that triggers loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
Sometimes, I think, we are inclined to forget all this and concentrate on the more obvious physical needs of people such as homelessness or poverty.