Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Message for the Lonely and Sick at Christmas

Christmas is a time to enjoy ourselves - a festival, a national and international party but not for everyone. How many people are out there, feeling the cold more bitterly, feeling forgotten, in a state of unspoken grief, beyond words?
  • How many single, widowed and divorced people are spending Christmas alone, dreading long days of social isolation, with friends out of contact? However, hard one tries to enjoy eating one's Christmas dinner alone, it is a trial. There are more suicides over Christmas and the New Year than at any other time of year, possibly because this period effects total social exclusion. 
  • How many elderly people feel on the fringes of life, particularly those with children living abroad or far away? 
  • There are people flooded out of their homes and many shivering in tents. 
  • There are mentally ill people unable to find a welcoming refuge with any warmth or meals 
  • There are those enduring unemployment and poverty who must choose whether to heat their room or eat, who cannot afford presents for their children. 
There are those who are ill. For them, Christmas is effectively cancelled - or is it? Priscilla Maurice, my favourite Christian writer on illness, writes (in my revised version of her book "Sickness: Its Trials and Blessings"):

"How can Christmas be a happy day for a sick person? Can it be kind to wish them Christmas joys and Christmas blessings? Christmas is that glad time of family meetings which they cannot share. Christmas is the season of festivity. How can it be a happy season to them? Surely above all seasons it reminds them of departed joys and that the days have arrived in which they say that they "have no pleasure in them" (Ecc. 12.1).

Yet there are two ways of enjoying Christmas which all such people can share in. One is to enjoy it for and with others, to be happy because others are happy. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12.15) and to make their pleasures your own. Enjoy the family meeting for and with others because they are enjoying it - lose oneself in them.

The other way is to remember what Christmas is. It is the celebration of the birthday of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The day on which He came into this world and became "acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53.3). the day on which He began to take upon Him weakness, suffering, feebleness and helplessness in which "He took our illnesses and bore our diseases" (Matt 8.17). Christmas is the time when He began to know what loneliness, lack of sympathy and being misunderstood by others really meant. It is the day on which He came to redeem us from sin, to take away the curse, that curse which involves sickness.

Surely Christmas Day is a day on which sick people should rejoice and be glad. They should welcome Christmas as a joyful day. If they cannot go to church and worship others, should they not be more independent of the need for church worship on this day, than on any other day, because their thoughts are stimulated by what is going on around them, by the decorations in their room, by Christmas greetings by the festivities around. Let us then be glad and rejoice and keep a "Happy Christmas".

There are those who think this Christmas is their last - let us remember them and pray for them.  Let us pray they rest all their faith and hope in the One who will rescue us all, ultimately, from all Christmas rejections, human loss and sadness.

For He knew and knows it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment