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The Christmas loneliness epidemic

(Photograph: Unsplash/Sandra Seitamaa)

Maybe for you Christmas is a cherished time of sharing nice meals, giving presents, telling tales, and making recollections with these you like. However for a rising variety of folks, it’s a miserable and lonely season.

Within the UK, a YouGov poll from December 2019 discovered {that a} quarter of Brits felt Christmas had a damaging impact on their psychological well being, particularly the unemployed, divorced and widowed.

In Australia, extra recent data acquired by the Pink Cross confirmed that round a 3rd of individuals battle with loneliness at Christmas time, exhibiting a rise over earlier years possible as a consequence of lockdown restrictions. And naturally it overwhelmingly impacts the aged.

The custom and its impact on the socially remoted

These figures present that societal loneliness across the vacation season is increased than you may realise, and throughout the church it’s no exception.

I’ve had each constructive and damaging experiences over time, and as a consequence of shifting round lots I’ve been the ‘outsider’ greater than as soon as. Social circles in church could be fairly ‘cliquey’ and take time to interrupt into.

Sadly, it’s rather more noticeable for those who occur to be the brand new particular person main as much as the festive season. Although Christmas was not a giant custom in our household, I’ve discovered myself at occasions simply making an attempt to keep away from being alone as everybody disappeared for the remainder of the 12 months.

Typically life places you in these conditions and it simply is not avoidable. However I imagine a big a part of the issue is the mentality behind the standard Western Christmas season.

Many people deal with it as a time to focus completely on household and shut associates. Whereas there’s nothing inherently incorrect with time set aside only for these dearest to us, setting the entire season apart for it leaves these with out good social connections figuratively out within the chilly.

Many individuals come from damaged households or have misplaced family members over time, and have not been in a position to keep robust social connections for a wide range of causes. We’re awakening to what’s now being referred to as an “epidemic of loneliness” in society, which has little doubt been exacerbated in the course of the lockdowns.

For folks affected by this ‘epidemic’, necessary holidays akin to Christmas are only a magnifying glass for his or her situation if nobody makes the hassle to achieve out and embrace them.

Jesus for instance of inclusiveness

That is an space of rising want that we as a church can deal with, and we should ask ourselves if a private sacrifice is required with a purpose to present God’s like to the rising variety of folks desperately in want of it. We do not have to look far for a mannequin of what we might do if we selected to step outdoors our consolation zone and check out.

Jesus is our greatest instance of what it seems to be wish to selflessly love others at one’s personal expense. He was typically making time for these on the fringes of society, even individuals who had been thought-about morally reprehensible.

And he not solely made time for them however invited himself into their lives and befriended them, assembly them the place they had been. The gospel of Mark says he ate with “sinners and tax collectors” and was criticised by the spiritual leaders for it (Mark 2:15 – 17). He broke bread with individuals who may make you are feeling uncomfortable or awkward, and in so doing broke with age-old traditions to point out love that transcended familial bonds.

What are you keen to sacrifice?

There’s a confronting problem in Jesus’ instance for us as his followers, and as members within the Kingdom of God as to how we method particular events like Christmas. We’re not right here to only reside satisfying lives in consolation with these we’re comfy with. We’re presupposed to share with others the love God has already proven us, and that may solely be achieved by being out there to these in want. This requires a sacrifice, and it might imply we’ve got to make room in our current traditions, and even rework our traditions to make them extra open to others.

I bear in mind when a buddy and pastor informed me how he and his spouse determined to cease leaving city to spend Christmas with their family members. They felt God had put it on their hearts to free themselves up for others within the church and in their very own neighbourhood – individuals who had no household or associates to be with. It was a tricky resolution they usually confronted robust criticism from their households, however they answered the decision to surrender cherished time with household to like these with out it.

I additionally bear in mind what a distinction it made to me after I was away from household, and a pair I had met solely days prior supplied to have me over for Christmas day. It was a comparatively small sacrifice on their half, but it surely made a world of distinction to me.

In order one other Christmas approaches, take a second to truthfully think about what it means to point out selfless love and use this season as a chance for the ‘Kingdom of God’.

Is there somebody on the fringes you possibly can embrace in your celebrations? Or might you even begin a brand new custom that can create the ‘campfire’ for others to collect round and profit from the heat that household and friendship brings?

In any case, because the numbers present, alternatives abound and that isn’t more likely to change any time quickly.

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