Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: “It is not good for man to be alone”

Second Sunday of Advent
06 December 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

In the midst of writing this sermon the Government was deciding on how many of us could get together over Christmas

The regulations seemed to change day by day and tier by tier

I am not exactly sure now what the rules are now

However, we were rightly warned that, although “tis is the season to be jolly”, we must be jolly careful at the same time

And with good cause

If we do get together, carelessly, then some people could become infected with the virus

Indeed some might die

However, the other side of the coin is that, if we don’t get together over Christmas, then some people will be desperately lonely

It is a dreadful dilemma

Loneliness however is one of those subjects which Christians seem to treat with indifference, if at all

On those rare occasions when we do pray for the lonely – it is often with a painful lack of imagination and sympathy

Equally, we are so often focussed on “communion” and “sharing” that we fail to give equal weight to loneliness and isolation at the same time

Whatever our failings as a Church – and there are many

The inescapable fact is that loneliness stalks our land

And even more so since the restrictions imposed due to this pandemic

This is something that could become really acute over what might be the most difficult Christmas some of us have ever experienced

Rather surprisingly, the Bible says very little about loneliness

As with most sermons, I looked up “lonely” in my Biblical Concordance

I am lucky enough to have a copy of Crudens’ Concordance which is the definitive guide to the Bible, written four hundred years ago

However, there appears to be no use of the word lonely in the entire Bible

I met with a similar result in my Analytical Concordance as well as the excellent “Dictionary of Biblical Imagery”

When I looked up the word alone, I did meet with better results but “alone” is not the same as “lonely

Being alone is not being with anyone else

Lonely or loneliness however is a sadness because one has no friends or company

Eventually, the best I could find was a quote by John Milton in his book “Tetrachordon

He wrote the book shortly after his wife walked out on him in the first few months of their marriage

He observed in his book that “It is not good for man to be alone. 

As he noted from the Book of Genesis Hitherto all thingsthat were named, were approved of [by] God to be very good:

However loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named not good.”

And he is quite right

According to one of the leading charities in this field, loneliness can have a severe impact on your health

It is estimated that the effect of loneliness can be as damaging as smoking ten cigarettes a day

At the same time, it puts individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline

One study estimated that lonely people had a 64% increase in developing dementia

This is very serious issue indeed

And loneliness is by no means a rare phenomenon

It is estimated that about 10% of the over 65’s suffer chronic loneliness – and this has risen as the elderly population has grown

I remember my Mother saying, after my Father went into a Nursing Home, that she felt “so lonely”

This was something I did not anticipate as she had always been so at ease with her own company

However, it must also be remembered that anyone can feel lonely, both young and old

A child at University can feel very lonely indeed

I was struck last week by a report in the paper about parental loneliness

The report was at the heart of a keynote speech given by the Duchess of Cambridge

It was revealed that whilst 38% of parents had experienced loneliness this before the crisis

This had risen to 63% – almost two-thirds – after the first lockdown – a jump of 25%.

And this in turn had had an impact on the early years’ development of children

With such a prevalence of loneliness, what can we do to help?

As some of you will have read in the Parish magazine, I have, this week, set up what I have called the “2020 Club”

I have split the parish into eight groups of approximately twenty people

Each group has a group leader who will contact everyone in the group of twenty to see if they want to take part

If they do, then they will be sent a list of the others in their group with an invitation to contact everyone in the group by phone, email or Christmas card

That way everyone should have some contact from the parish over the festive season

Obviously, I can’t be prescriptive and some may not want as much contact as others

But I am hoping that no one falls through the net this Christmas

Furthermore, I am hoping that we can re-kindle and deepen our sense of community at the same time

It is a risk and our databases are not as accurate as they might otherwise be – please bear with us

But there is another important theological aspect to this initiative

Because by making contact with one another – as members of Church – we enter into a different type of relationship

Not just the relationship of mutual friendship – though that is of the utmost importance

But also a relationship with Jesus Christ

A relationship which enables us to “share the Word that is not ours”

And consume food and drink “we have not made”

As Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said

With Christ, we are torn away from the superficial of our own making

In Christ

we find our truth in his…so that he becomes our own secure bond our broken bread… our food, our life, our prayers; and our love