By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Christmas isn't warm hugs and giggles for everyone.
For those who spend the Yuletide alone, it's a lonely, much-dreaded month. News of suicide isn't uncommon to hear in the midst of the mirth.
'It's unfortunate,' said Jason Goings, assistant pastor of college and missions at First Baptist Church in Belton. 'Because when Christmas started, it wasn't like that. Christmas wasn't like the way we think it should be.'
Goings was addressing the church's singles group on Dec. 8 at Temple's Hilton Garden Inn. Two age groups, the single seniors and the single young professionals, had paired together for a holiday party.
His message was simple: 'Christmas is about the gift God gave to each one of us, His son Jesus Christ - whose presence is inside us all.'
But today's society, Goings said, has lost sight of that gift. Loneliness, he said, trumps the holiday spirit, busting it into nothing. He discussed the tragedy of December suicides to illustrate his point.
'Yes, Satan's done a marvelous thing in pulling the wool over our eyes,' Goings said. 'Somehow, the world has come to think that if there's not family, lots of plans, and lots of excitement, then there's not Christmas.'
That's a pure misconception, he said, not at all how the first Christmas happened.
'The first Christmas was when the world got the greatest gift of all,' Goings said. 'Think about how it happened.'
There was no fanfare, parade or prom.
'An angel came down and told the shepherds,' Goings said. 'And who were the shepherds? A bunch of guys who were single who hadn't shaved in four or five months.' Laughs came from the audience as Goings' emphasized the word, 'single.'
'They were single guys kicking at the dirt,' Goings said. 'They were doing their jobs when the angel came down.'
The angel also visited Mary, the Virgin Mother, an unwed, simple woman who lived the life of a peasant. Mary wasn't known throughout the land for her beauty, she wasn't a sought-after bride and she wasn't the center of attention.
Mary was chosen for her heart, Goings said.
'It was a lonely night when these people received the greatest news of their lives,' Goings said.
He implored his audience to remember that the next time they felt alone in sorrow.
'That first gift is the greatest gift. And it belongs to each of us,' he said. 'You didn't have to do anything to deserve it. You get it because you're loved.'
Sometimes it takes a bit of looking to find it, but it's there, he assured.
'Once you find it, hold onto it. And like any other good gift, use it, enjoy it, play with it. Tell your friends about it.'
And because it's of God, he said, that gift should be at the center of your life, not a routine item on a checklist.
'Let the wonderfulness of that gift feed into everything that you do,' Goings said. 'And like the shepherds and like Mary, life will go from lonely to full of purpose.'