Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this season
Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 10:33 am
“Loneliness is our baggage, a huge and largely unacknowledged cultural failing.”
– Elizabeth Renzetti in The Globe & Mail, Nov. 23
At the core of the Christmas message in the Christian tradition is a story of relationship. ‘Immanuel’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘God is with us.’ Via the historical figure, Jesus Christ, God embraced the messiness of life along ‘with us’ to address a number of significant issues such as loneliness.
Renzetti’s article underscores a fascinating paradox in contemporary Canadian culture: “it is the great irony of our age that we have never been better connected, or more adrift.” She points out that residents of Vancouver recently identified social isolation as their most pressing concern. More Canadians than ever now live alone and one-quarter of us say we’re lonely.
A 2012 study at the University of California/San Francisco revealed a clear link between loneliness and serious heart problems and early-death in the elderly. Lonely seniors had a 59-per-cent greater chance of health problems and a 45-per-cent greater chance of early death. A doctor who led the study described an encounter with an elderly patient in a hospital emergency ward who seemed to have nothing wrong with her. She eventually realized the woman was so lonely that she merely wanted someone to talk to.
I learned long ago that the Christmas season is truly not a very happy experience for many. Numerous people tell me they essentially tune-out the “noise” of the month of December. For many of these, it’s because they are lonely. The merriment associated with this time of the year is a painful reminder to them of their failures in life – failed relationships, dreams, and professional initiatives.
As I listen to the lonely people I cross paths with, I’m reminded of another old word the Christian tradition employs during this season – “incarnation.” The Incarnation is, of course, a Christian doctrine associated with our belief that God took on human form in Jesus Christ to enter history that Christmas night long ago. The word also simply means “a person or thing regarded as embodying or exhibiting some quality or idea.”
Regardless of your religious orientation, I encourage all of us to ask ourselves how we might incarnate relationship to the lonely in our city this season? Let’s not just think about it, let’s act on it. A senior’s lodge is a great place to start.
Tim is pastor at Faith Community Church, Airdrie. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org