I’d love for you to hear some thoughts from my longtime friend Julie Denker. Julie has been on staff at FamilyLife for over three decades. She is a woman of strong faith, always looking to encourage and serve others in even the smallest ways. It’s an honor to know her and learn from her. And now I share that honor with you. -Barbara
by Julie Denker
When Christmas is represented with families huddled around evergreens, delighted little eyes discovering first the wonder of the season, and romantic fireside cocoa sharing, enjoying the season as a single woman living alone must be an intentional choice. But celebrating Christmas when you live alone really is possible!
To start at the foundation, I choose to make Christ the focal point of the Christmas season. This sounds elementary, but in practice I had a great example of how to do this when for years a dear friend, a widow, invited me to her annual Christmas tea to kick off the holiday season. Each year as the weather turned cooler, I eagerly anticipated receiving the invitation in my mailbox. Attending this joy-filled event with singing hymns, delicious food, and engaging fellowship set the festive tone for days to come as we all looked forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus.
When I moved into a new neighborhood years later, I continued this tradition through hosting a Christmas tea/hot chocolate and cookie exchange with a friend sharing her testimony during our time. While I don’t do this every year, it’s been a great way to get to know my neighbors and be reminded of the opportune time to share Christ with those who don’t know Him yet.
Another intentional choice I make is to reconnect old friends or perhaps introduce new friends with different needs I have at my home. I was born with cerebral palsy so my limited mobility is an opportunity waiting to happen. I make it a party that intersects good food with a chance to serve. When God first provided my home, I discovered that if someone loved to do something then to them it was fun and not work. So, I pray and then ask the people God puts on my heart for help.
I’ve seen God provide in some incredible ways. In fact, just last weekend, three friends helped decorate my home in the morning before we enjoyed lunch together and another friend brought a pizza over as we decorated my tree that night. Now that is a way to share Christmas joy and cheer.
I also like to cultivate the presence of God through practicing solitude. Often, on the weekend, I carve out time to just sit, ponder, and pray. As I think about my family and friends, especially those who have lost loved ones throughout the year, I pray for them. This time focused on the Lord has helped me learn to distinguish the difference between being alone and being lonely.
If I know of someone who is experiencing being away from their family for the holidays because it’s not “their year,” I look to offer encouragement by dropping a note in the mail or an email or sending a text message, or inviting them to grab a cup of coffee together. Because I naturally like to have a plan, I look for opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone, be spontaneous, and to include others, especially those who may feel like they are on the fringe at Christmas time.
Luke 14 gives a great clarion call to look beyond the usual. The Christmas season presents so many opportunities to go deeper in conversation as people struggle with the hard things of life that are magnified when we’re surrounded by Hallmark movies and wonderful family photos on Facebook and Instagram.
Making the choice to be willing to embrace the joy of the season mixed with the sorrow of real life has been a key for me to wisely managing my expectations. It’s possible to experience profound loneliness in a crowd and be extremely content and encouraged with no one else around.
This year my family of origin is celebrating Christmas a week early, which means I’ll be back home and away from family on Christmas Eve and day. When I realized this, I began praying and asking my friends who would be in town. Thankfully there is a family where we have mutually adopted one another and they have invited me to spend some time with them.
I’m grateful for that, but even if God had not provided me being an honorary aunt to this family, I’m reminded that I’m not really alone with the verse from Hebrews 13:5; “Never will I leave thee or forsake thee.”
If you’re entering this Christmas season alone, I pray this truth will encourage you too.