1190779Did you know that:

*Men and women who felt the most loved and supported had substantially less blockage in their coronary arteries.

*Men and women with heart disease who were single and lacked confidants were three times as likely to have died after five years.

*Married men who feel that their wives showed them love had significantly less angina.

The above findings were quoted by Dean Ornish, Clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco [Dean Ornish, “Love Is Real Medicine” Newsweek International Edition, October 17 th 2005, 39].

In his article, Ornish says:

Medicine today focuses primarily on drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. Yet love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well. [Therefore] when we understand the connection between how we live and how long we live, its easier to make different choices. Instead of viewing the time we spend with friends and family as luxuries, we can see that these relationships are among the most powerful determinants of our well being and survival.

This seems like a lot of work and a lot of words to confirm what God had told us a long, long time ago. That it was not good for man to be alone. [I secretly believe that given enough time, science will support all that is already in the bible.] Which is why Christmas is such a devastating time for many, especially in countries and societies where Christmas is also the time for family reunions.

For many, it suddenly hits home that they have no families to go home to, and the many who do, prefer not to precisely because they know what is waiting for them at home.

It is truly tragic that humanity pours so much effort and resources to tackle a myriad of problems but ignore such a fundamental one — the loneliness of modern man. If modern life is characterized primarily by individualism, competition and isolation, then more and more of us are going to be sick.

I also suspect there is a more prior and more fundamental loneliness at work. As James Houston puts it, “If it is true that God made us for himself, then without God we are bound to live with an underlying frustration and unhappiness.”

Perhaps one of the reasons we are so frustrated with human relationships is that we expect our human companions to meet that need we have for divine companionship and invariably they fail. We lash out in our frustration and lose even the human companions we have.

It would seem to make sense then that we address this prior loneliness apart from which we can never be completely connected to anyone else. Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life:that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” [John 17:3 TNIV] The only way to cure our basic loneliness is to enter into a relationship, i.e. know, the living God through Jesus Christ. Many do not know God and so loneliness is pandemic especially at Christmas. The media recognizes this.

One of my all time favourite X-Files Episode is “How The Ghosts Stole Christmas” [Season 6, Episode 6]. In this episode, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin guest star brilliantly as two ghosts that appear only on Christmas eve to hammer home the utter loneliness of human existence to any couple staying in the house they haunted, thereby driving the couple to despair and suicide.

Here is the dialogue that introduces the ghosts in question.

Mulder: “Christmas, 1917. It was a time of dark, dark despair. American soldiers were dying at an ungodly rate in a war-torn Europe while at home, a deadly strain of the flu virus attacked young and old alike. Tragedy was a visitor on every doorstep while a creeping hopelessness set in with every man, woman and child. It was a time of dark, dark despair.” Scully: “You said that.” Mulder: “But here at 1501 Larkspur Lane for a pair of star-crossed lovers tragedy came not from war or pestilence not by the boot heel or the bombardier , but by their own innocent hand.” Scully: “Go on.” Mulder: “His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.” Scully: “And what happened to them?” Mulder: “Driven by a tragic fear of separation they forged a lovers’ pact, so that they might spend eternity together and not spend one precious Christmas apart.” Scully: “They killed themselves?” Mulder: “And their ghosts haunt this house every Christmas Eve.”

[Disclaimer: I don’t believe in ghosts as they are usually portrayed in the entertainment media though I do believe in evil spirits. Yes, you can delete that email you were about to send to rebuke my allusion to ghosts.]

The episode also uses the song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to powerful effect. It gets my vote for saddest song ever, well at least saddest Christmas song.

Christmas is also such a lonely time because the slogans of the season promise so much yet many of us experience our lives as being so far removed from what is promised in the slogans. This is truly ironic because one of the names of the person who came at Christmas two thousand years ago is Immanuel, God with us.

The God of Christmas is not a God who stays far away. This is a God who knows our need for connecting to Him and to others. After all he made us. And He does not want us to be alone. Hence He came to us. He is indeed knocking on the doors of our hearts. But we often treat him as some ghostly figure, hoping that if we ignore Him He will go away.

But Jesus is no ghost. On the contrary, He rose from the dead to show that He has triumphed over death and despair and stands ready with the gifts of life and love, knocking. And if He is not in our lives, we will always be divine-lonely.

Christians too need to discover and rediscover this truth. Often we have invited Jesus into our lives but keep Him in our heads. So many of us live Christian lives defined by doctrine and activism and wonder why we are as lonely as the rest of the world.

Why don’t we do something radical this Christmas. Instead of our usual rushing around to the never ending round of church Christmas activities, why don’t we carve out a quiet moment alone or with a few good friends, and commune with the God in our hearts.

And instead of badgering our non Christian friends to another glitzy bells and whistle Christmas evangelistic programme, why don’t we invite one to a cup of coffee and ask how they are doing and take the time to listen to the answers.

Give him or her the gifts of love, hearing, focus, and the time that makes it happen. Who knows, he or she may take a second look at the Jesus you claim dwells in your heart. Because your friend really isn’t interested in the one that dwells in the mall.

People are not dying for lack of entertainment, ecclesiastical or otherwise. They are dying for love. They need to know His Name is Immanuel. They need to know Him.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan

Write me! At: sooinn@graceatwork.org

PS. Advent Greetings! To all readers of this column, I wish a blessed Christmas! Thank you for journeying with me through the ecommentaries. May the reality of God and His love be more real to you this Christmas and the year ahead!