I heard a popular Christmas song on my way home from work today. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” If the title is not questionable enough, there is a line in the song that says, “it’s the hap-happiest season of all.”
I wonder if a more appropriate line wouldn’t be ‘it’s the lon-lonliest season of all.”
The people who know about such things say this is true. Depression and suicide rates go up during the holidays.
I don’t know the reason for this, but perhaps it is because what can be pushed aside or ignored the rest of the year, shoves itself in one’s face during the holidays: everyone else is happily enjoying family, friends, etc., and you are alone.
All around us, all the time, are lonely people.
At Christmas parties.
At the mall.
And even at home with their families.
Its interesting that the church today pushes the idea that Jesus is your friend. He is there for you. He is always with you. You are never alone. But of course what we tend to forget is that despite the presence of Jesus in our lives, we cannot hold him, or touch him. When we talk to him, he rarely responds. He may understand us better than anyone else, but this is hard to get your mind around when there is no tangible evidence.
So if the church wants to be credible in this skeptical age, we can’t just promise the comfort of Jesus, we have to show it. We have to be willing to step out and build relationships with those who we come into contact with. Genuine, time-consuming, listening, understanding relationships.
That might be with the bus driver or the rather grungy woman who rides with us every day. Or perhaps with the surely young person who, in trying not to be noticed, is really screaming, “notice me!”
Only insofar as the church practices hospitality – not the superficial kind but real, I am here for you, hospitality – will the claim that Jesus is with us make any sense. What better way during the advent season to show Immanuel, God with us, than by opening yourself up to the folks around you. Who knows, you may meet an angel in disguise.