It is always hard to release a loved one in death, especially at Christmas. This season is one of joy and celebration; yet, it is incredibly lonely for many, especially for those who have had a loved one die close to or during the holidays.
As I have thought long and hard about this, I have taken comfort in the fact that Immanuel is God’s cure for loneliness at Christmas. I’m referring to the Christ-child as referenced in Isaiah’s prophecy and subsequently quoted in Matthew’s narrative of the Savior’s birth.
Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) 14Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV) 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
Luke, a physician, provides significant insight and detail about the birth of Jesus not mentioned elsewhere. “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger . . .” (Luke 2:7).
Luke’s detail in this seventh verse is explicitly concerned with a lonely birth. There are no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn’t even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.
Campbell Morgan wrote, “It is very beautiful, but oh, the pity of it, the tragedy of it, the loneliness of it; that in that hour of all hours when womanhood should be surrounded by the tenderest care, she was alone.”
But, the question on my mind is, “Was she really alone?” The very child she cradled in the loneliness of this moment was none other than Immanuel, “God with us.” Hence, it may have been a lonely birth, but she was never alone!
Loneliness speaks of inner emptiness, a preoccupation with “Poor me. I am all alone and so blue.” Aloneness, in contrast, refers to an inner fulfillment; “I am now alone with Jesus; I can recover, repair, and regroup.”
We walk many roads in life, surrounded by those we love, and sometimes by destiny’s choice, we must take a step alone. In that vacant spot, there is God. An old gospel song reminds us, “No, never alone. Alone, no, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me, alone.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 (GW) records this great promise. 5God has said, "I will never abandon you or leave you." 6So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid . . .”
When my Dad died 44 years ago at the young age of 37, I remember someone saying to my mother, who was only 34 at the time, “Everywhere you look for Albert, God will be there.” As a twelve-year-old boy, it seemed somewhat elusive to me. Years later, I discovered that one of God’s compound names is Jehovah-Shammah, which means “The Lord Is There.” Since my late wife's passing on April 26, 2016, this revelation means more to me now than ever before.
Immanuel is with us now, even in our grief. The shortest verse in the English Bible reminds us that Jesus understands our grief and sorrow when a loved one passes. That verse found in John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” He wept outside the grave of his friend Lazarus. He wept with his sisters Mary and Martha just as He weeps with you today.
You may be lonely this Christmas, but I promise you, on the authority of God’s Word, “You are never alone.” May you discover Immanuel this Christmas in a fresh, new dimension that will fortify your faith and strengthen you for the journey ahead.
- Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Luke (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1929), 36.
The Rev. Mr. W. A. Mills, Jr. served for 32 years as a pastor in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, including 12 years in North Carolina and 21 years in Buena Vista, Virginia. W. A. has preached in camp meetings, revivals, men’s conferences, and pastors’ conferences within and outside the IPHC. He is as a member of the Appalachian Conference where he served one term as an executive council member. W. A. serves as vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees of Holmes Bible College in Greenville, SC.
Having served 12 years on the General Men’s Ministries Board, prior to his appointment as General Director of Men’s Ministries in February 2018, W. A. assumed office on July 1, 2018 following the retirement of Rev. Bill C. Terry. He now makes his home in Oklahoma City. W. A.’s passion is to lead men in becoming authentic men who in the words of Robert Lewis, “reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously, and expect the greater reward, God’s reward.”
Widowed in April of 2016, W. A. is the proud father of three young adult children, Rachel, married to David Wilson, Tre married to Megan Amato Mills, and Hannah Nicole Mills. W. A. is the grandfather of two very special grandchildren, Gabriel David Wilson and Calla Ruth Wilson.