One of the problems of life, is to live independently of circumstances and conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. The secret was in himself. He carried in his own mind and heart—the resources he needed. No matter how bare his life was of comforts, or how full of trials and sufferings—the peace and joy within were not disturbed. It may not be easy for the lonely ones, lacking the companionship and fellowship of home and its happiness, to go through a Christmastide, as if nothing were lacking. Yet there is a way to overcome in great measure, the lack of fellowship. Much can be done by thinking of others who are lonely, and doing what we can to carry cheer to them. In doing this—we will forget our own lonely condition. Then we can turn our heart-hunger toward Christ—who is always willing to give us his joy. Here is a little prayer for lonely people, which some may find fitting for the Christmastide.
My Father, I miss the gladness which many of your other children are enjoying today. They have their homes and friends and happy fellowships, while I am alone. Yet may I have a joyous Christmas even without these bright things. Let me not envy those who have the blessings which I do not have. Save me from all bitter feeling, all complaining, all homesickness, and all unhappiness because of my circumstances. Help me to remember the loneliness of Jesus, who was born in poverty and found no welcome in this world, and to be as contented in my condition, as he was in his.
I pray for others who are lonely like myself, away from their homes; for the very poor to whom the day will bring but little gladness; for the children whose dream of Christmas has been disappointed; for the sick, the sorrowing, and the weary. In the great wave of good feeling which spreads everywhere today, may some touch of human kindness reach everyone of these heart-hungry ones.
Grant me the privilege of carrying a little Christmas gladness to some who but for me, would go unblessed. Lead me to one, at least, to whom a kindly word will be a blessing. Let me give cheer to one who is discouraged. Give me the privilege of making real to someone, the sweetness and warmth of the love of Christ.
So I pray, my Father, that this wondrous day may not pass without leaving something of its glad, loving spirit in my heart—and something of its quickening in my life. May I get a new vision of your divine love. May I be cleansed of the sin which has left its sad blots, on all my old year’s pages. May I from today live more beautifully, less selfishly, less willfully, more helpfully—than ever before. May I find comfort hereafter for my loneliness, in closer companionship with Christ and in a life of love and service. Grant these blessings, I beseech you, in his precious name. Amen.
“Good-will toward men.” Good-will means kindness, sympathy, love. It means that we shall have no bitter feeling toward anyone, no unkind thought, no dislike. This man who jostled against me today—is my bother. Perhaps it was as much my fault—as his. I may have put myself obstinately in his way. Most likely at least he did it unintentionally. Let me then forgive him—or even ask his pardon for being in the way when he stumbled.
We may read the Gospels to see how Jesus showed good-will to men, for he gave us the pattern for every beautiful thing he would have us do. A frown never came upon his face—when someone had been rude or unkind to him. Nothing ever caused him to show annoyance, however many things you were to disturb and vex him. The people were selfish and ill-mannered in pressing about him. They gave him no time to rest or to eat. They even broke in upon him—when he was at his private devotions. But his patience and kindness never failed. Nothing ever ruffled or interrupted his composure or irritated him in the slightest way. They told him that the woman at his feet was evil, that her character was stained, and that he should not let her touch him. But he continued his gracious kindness to her—as if she had been the best woman in the land. They hated and persecuted him, hurt and insulted him, spitting in his face, at last nailing him on the cross; but he went on loving, never complaining, never resisting, showing no resentment!
That is what good-will to men means. Can we learn the lesson? That is part of what our Christmas-making means. On Christmas Day, we feel “kindly affectioned” toward all the world. We would not do harm to anyone. We let nothing annoy or vex us. We try to keep our spirit sweet, even amid the most irritating experiences. We forgive those who have wronged us. We give up grudges and resentments. We are glad of any opportunity to be kind to those who have been unkind to us. The problem is to keep up this good-will tomorrow, to take it out with us into the life of the days after Christmas, and to keep on making Christmas wherever we go all the days of the new year. If we do all this—it will not take long to bring in the reign of love.
A prayer has been suggested appropriate for those who are lonely at the Christmastide. It seems fitting to suggest also a prayer for those who are happy in their own homes or in circles of friends.