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How to Get Through a Lonely Christmas

Even in the absence of family gatherings this year, there’s still joy and wonder to be found.

Alone at Christmas
Credit: Getty Images

Alone at Christmas? Celebrating in just a small group? In the past we’ve celebrated with 20-some boisterous relatives gathered at my mom’s house in California. Not this year. This year it’ll be just the two of us around the tree. At home.

How to get through a lonely Christmas? How to celebrate the Savior’s birth? I started looking back at that first Christmas, thinking about what it was really like. It gave me some new insights about what to focus on this year. 

Alone doesn’t have to be lonely.

Think of what it must have been like for Mary, giving birth to her first child far away from her family and friends. Bethlehem doesn’t look so far from Nazareth on a map today, about 90 miles on modern roads.

And yet God supplied companions, God supplied support. Unexpected visitors, lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, angels from the heaven, a star to mark the spot.

Instead of dreading Christmas, I intend to open myself up to whatever comes. And however it comes. No, I can’t imagine any wise men coming up our New York apartment steps. Or gifts that didn’t come from UPS. But can’t I hope for that sense of wonder?

Hear and smell what is here.

That first Christmas must have been a fragrant one. If I had to come up with the smells of Christmas I would probably say, “gingerbread cookies” or “a roast in the oven cooking” and “the scent of pine.”

What about the smell of hay in the manger or a lamb carried in a shepherd’s arm? Or frankincense and myrrh. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that reminded me of them? I think burning a scented candle this Christmas would be just right.

Give yourself moments to pause and pray.

Okay, admittedly, those busy boisterous Christmas days that I fear I’m going to miss didn’t leave much time for me to rest, sit, read or silently pray. We always said grace at dinner but that was about it.

It would have been different in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. No TV, no Internet, no Zoom, no books to read, no music to listen to. Just the sound of a newborn baby and the joy a mother and father share at such a birth.

That’s what I intend to pray. “Lord, remind me of that joy. Keep it close to me. Let me sing it to myself. Let me know it. Let me share it. Let me be transformed by the miracle of You, God, becoming one of us so that we could know how to become like You.”

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