Luke includes an interesting little detail in describing the life and ministry of Jesus. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
It is in the barren and lonely places of our lives where God often shows up.
That first Christmas, God showed up and delivered the greatest gift to humankind through a manger, a dark lonely cave full of animal aromas and sounds. Later, He showed up and brought a saving peace to a boat in the middle of a rough, turbulent, and lonely sea. Eventually, He would show up and defeat sin on a cross; a lonely, old, and rugged cross where one man hung with the weight of sin upon him.
Fast forward to an empty lonely waiting room where next door doctors frantically worked on my 9-month-old daughter with a life-threatening condition. God showed up and brought a calm presence to the inner depths of my soul. God shows up in the barren lonely places in our lives.
But this Christmas, let us not confuse lonely places with feeling alone. Feeling alone is something we all experience. Feeling alone is where our enemy wants us to stay. But loneliness leads us to lonely places where God still shows up. Listen to the words of David in the acrostic poem of Psalm 25. Verse 16 states, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Later, in his place of loneliness, God shows up as David declares in verse 21: “May integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope is in you.” God showed up in a lonely place and countered David’s feeling of aloneness with hope.
Every person since the writing of Psalm 25 has had feelings of being alone. Christmas is as if God heard the cries of David as the cries of mankind and answered by giving the greatest gift wrapped in hope. The gift was named Emmanuel, God with us. This Christmas may you embrace the lonely places and pray to the God who shows up through the person we call Emmanuel. For He is with you and you are never alone. This is our hope!