“Wyoming is supposedly a state. Wyoming does not in fact exist. It is a distortion of space-time that only appears to exist.” Or so we are informed by the Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced English-language online dictionary for slang words and phrases. (Think Wikipedia for urban expressions.)
If you were to prove the article wrong, how would you do so?
You could point to maps delineating the state, but maps, being lines drawn on pages (or digital images) can deceive us. You could remind us that Wyoming has two senators, a member of Congress, and an entire state governance apparatus, but they would obviously profit personally from participating in the scam.
You could meet people like me who claim to have been there, but how would we really know? When you drive past a roadside sign telling you that you’ve entered Wyoming (or any other state), what empirical evidence exists to prove this assertion?
When you think about it, there are few “realities” we can prove beyond all doubt. For example, mathematical axioms—such as the sum of a triangle being two right angles—are unprovable “statements taken to be true.” To prove that parallel lines never intersect, you’d have to draw them forever.
I had two great-aunts who were convinced that astronauts never went to the moon. The entire thing was filmed in the Arizona desert, they claimed. When I asked about moon rocks I’d seen in a museum, they replied, “How do you know they’re from the moon?” It was a good question.
Reasons for “post-Christmas depression”
On this day after the day after Christmas, we have entered the season of the “post-holiday” blues. In one survey, 64 percent of participants responded that they were affected by “post-Christmas depression.” A clinical study discovered “a decrease in the overall utilization of psychiatric emergency services and admissions, self-harm behavior, and suicide attempts/completions during the holiday. But they found an increase, or a rebound, following the Christmas holiday.”
Contributing factors include returning to work or school, financial challenges from gift-giving, parting ways with relatives and loved ones, grief or loss, and conflicts among family and friends that emerged during the holidays.
Loneliness is especially a problem for many.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy explains that loneliness occurs when the connections a person needs in life are greater than the connections they have. When people return from holiday gatherings to their “normal” lives, many lose or lack such connections.
Dr. Murthy warns that loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 26 percent. In terms of your lifespan, living in loneliness is equivalent to smoking up to fifteen cigarettes a day.
Harvard professor Dr. Jeremy Nobel identifies three types of loneliness:
- Psychological: feeling that we don’t have anyone to confide in or trust.
- Societal: feeling systematically excluded because of characteristics such as gender, race, or disability.
- Existential: loneliness from feeling disconnected from oneself.
All three are invitations to the reality and abiding relevance of Christmas.
When Christmas comes to Wyoming
Yesterday we discussed the fact that the Christ of Christmas now lives in every Christian as fully as he lived in his earthly body (1 Corinthians 3:16). As a result, you and I exist to continue his earthly ministry as the hands and feet of Jesus at work in our world (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Here’s the problem: many in our secularized culture are as skeptical of Jesus’ present-tense reality as the Urban Dictionary seems to be of Wyoming. They will believe that Christ is relevant to their loneliness and other challenges to the degree that Christians are. But we cannot give what we don’t have. If the person of Jesus is not working in us, he cannot work through us.
So, let’s return to Dr. Nobel’s three types of loneliness:
- Are you confiding and trusting in the living Lord Jesus? When last did you spend time talking with him and listening to him? When last did you trust him with your challenges and needs? When last did reading his word encourage and redirect your life?
- Do you feel excluded from his miraculous grace today? Are there sins you need to confess? Guilt and failures you need to entrust to his compassion? When last did you feel yourself to be his “beloved”? Do you deeply believe that Jesus would be born and die all over again just for you? If not, why not?
- Do you feel estranged from yourself? Are you disappointed with your life or discouraged by your challenges? Do you love yourself as unconditionally as your Father loves you? If not, why not?
As you experience the transforming grace of your living Lord today, will you share his compassion with someone who needs to see the reality of his love in yours? Every day you do, Christmas comes again.
And our world can never be the same.
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