As the holidays grow close I often think of those that are going to feel disconnected or lonely at this time of year. Holidays are very important to God and they should be to us as well.
The Bible holidays were primarily tied to the agricultural cycle of Israel. Wheat, Barley and other crops were grown in the many fields and the planting and harvesting seasons were the highlights of the year. One of the things that living in an agricultual society did was to cause people, mainly families to work together to get the crops in and get them out of the ground, then to preserve them and turn them into food. This was time intensive and took much of the year. All the while, families were together, working hard, playing hard, enjoying fellowship.
It’s no surprise to us that families don’t stay together like that in our society. Blame whatever you want, culture, job searches, industrial living, moving to big cities, what have you, but we are much less connected to people we care about and love.
This makes the holidays especially joyful to those that can gather and especially painful to those that have no one to gather with or have lost most of their family.
Life is about healthy relationships when you boil it down. Our relationship with God, our self, our loved ones, our neighbors. Many of Christ’s parables attest to this. God’s law can be understood as loving the two great relationships, God and your neighbor.
When we come to the holidays and we feel that sense of dread that we will have to endure another time of loneliness, I take that as a sign that my relationships have dwindled or even disappeared. People die, move on, or just lose interest in staying in touch.
I’m not a very touchy feely kind of guy, growing up in New York City taught me a certain kind of distance, even wariness. But I have changed over the years. I like to find out about people and listen to their story and this helps me to grow closer and stronger in relationships. My wife is an expert in this phenomenon of making fast friends and so I learn a lot from her.
Sometimes you have to stick your hand out there and bridge the gap. I was on a team of pastors in Tanzania that spent a month sharing the Gospel in meetings and service and health care. One day as we were preparing to open the meetings, the conference treasurer and I were tasked with going to the hardware store and buying some strong rope to hold the tent up higher. As soon as we climbed down from the platform, he grabbed my hand. I had seen the other African pastors do this, but me, no, I wasn’t too accustomed to anything like that. But I went with it, off we went, hand in hand, two men to the hardware store. I have to admit, after a month of holding hands with my brothers, I got used to it, sort of.
Sometimes that first attempt to reach out to develop a new relationship seems a little odd or awkward. You might even get rejected. Just remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
My wife and I see dozens of people each day, often with their dogs on our walk around a local lake. We have developed lots of new relationships and they are growing and expanding weekly, both in person and on line.
Jesus is the Shepherd of a Flock, not a single sheep. He’s got lots of sheep to care for and he longs for you to be one of his servant shepherds as well. The more you listen to the stories of others, the more you engage with them, the less lonely you’ll be, the less ache you will feel when you sit by yourself on those holidays or other days.
I don’t think Jesus grabbed a lot of hands on the way to the hardware store, but I’m sure He grabbed a lot of hearts along the way, every day. And I suspect, He did not suffer much loneliness, except those times when He longed to be in the physical presence of God and the angels.
We live long enough and we will lose someone that we will miss terribly. They can never be replaced. But there are lots of folks out there that need what we have to share. Stick your hand out, better yet, your heart. Heal and be healed this holiday season.