End of Year Traditions
These final weeks of the year, many people pack suitcases or put clean sheets on the guest bed to prepare to spend the holidays with family. Sometimes I am one of those people.
I have crammed onto overbooked flights with my husband and kids to spend Christmas with dear ones across the country. I have joyfully filled my home with relatives for Thanksgiving. But most of the time, the circumstances of military life have prevented my crew of four from spending the holidays with extended family.
This has its joys, certainly—skipping over the stresses of travel, developing our own traditions with our son and daughter, experiencing the delights of Friendsgiving—but it has its sorrows as well. I miss my mom’s cooking. We only see our nephews’ delighted smiles through FaceTime. My husband reports to work on Christmas Eve and the house is too quiet.
Adjusting to New Rhythms
I’ve grown accustomed to this December rhythm, but it still surprises me in some way every year. Maybe this is familiar to you as well, or maybe this brand of loneliness is new in your life. Perhaps you can’t afford to travel home this year, or maybe you are physically near your family but the emotional and relational chasm is wide.
Modern culture offers the false narrative that the holiday season is “all about family and friends” which, if embraced, intensifies the ache when family togetherness dangles just out of reach. It also fails to deliver lasting satisfaction even when we are in harmony with our families and get to be near them at Christmastime.
This season is primarily about our relationship with God and the eternal satisfaction He offers us in Himself through Christ. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.
Our Great Comfort
In this season, my greatest source of comfort is the truth of the nearness God, and His expression of nearness in the family of God.
The sharp sting of loneliness encounters the Christmas reality of Emmanuel: God with us. The eternal, all-powerful Creator and Sustainer drew near to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus walked among His people and became well-acquainted with our temptations and grief (Hebrews 4:15). He persevered perfectly and was sacrificed on our behalf as the sinless Lamb. By His spotless blood alone do we enjoy communion with a holy God, and the constant indwelling presence of His Spirit. We are not alone.
He also calls His children into His family—the Church, both global and local. If we are in Christ, we are part of an eternal family, one of flesh and blood because of His torn flesh and spilled blood.
This family spans the globe, ever-growing, expectantly awaiting His return. We celebrate this on a local level when we gather regularly for corporate worship. The people with whom we knock elbows in the foyer and sing off-key during worship each week are our siblings. We are one in Christ, and in this family of God we are not alone.
Beholding the Lamb
Beholding the Lamb of God in this season of being far from family does not guarantee the ache will subside right now. I feel it whenever someone asks about our holiday plans and I say, “It’s just us this year.” Or when I stand in endless lines at the post office to mail presents to faraway relatives.
But let us remember, dear sisters: we have the guarantee of God’s presence and His people when we are far from our family and friends. This is a priceless gift, not a consolation prize.
Join me in drawing near to God through His Word and prayer this season, and He will draw near to us (James 4:8a). Let’s gather with the family of God this Christmas, worshipping Christ with fellow adopted sons and daughters (Romans 8:15–16). I pray we will behold the Lamb who draws near to us in our loneliness, and savor the good gifts of nearness with God and communion with His Church this Christmas.